Bradley Barkley spent his childhood following his grandpa around the farm. “I used to ride on the fender of the tractor while my grandpa was planting.” Growing up surrounded by farm equipment, crops and family, Bradley was determined to continue that family tradition of farming.
As a young man, Bradley joined the Air Force. He began as a crew chief for the F-15 fighter jets and eventually achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant. While stationed in Florida for eight years, Bradley deployed multiple times. He completed his time with the Air Force Reserves at Scott Air Force Base and began transitioning into the life he had always imagined for himself on the farm.
By the time Bradley returned home, his father had been diagnosed with cancer and stopped farming. Though he had access to the family land, Bradley was faced with starting the operation from the ground up.
“The biggest problem we had was the financial burden of all new equipment and putting in a whole new crop and getting everything started again,” Bradley said.
Despite these challenges, Bradley relied on the support of his family and Farm Credit Illinois to achieve his dream.
“Farm Credit was there, not just financially but in an educational standpoint too. They gave me the knowledge to understand where we were spending money. They started me out with an operating loan and a balance sheet and showed me what we were working on and working towards.”
Farm Credit Illinois’ FreshRoots, specifically designed for young and beginning farmers, provided much of that education.
Thinking back on the impact that Farm Credit had on his success, Bradley said, “My goal when I came back was to keep the family farm in my name and keep moving it forward, not just for my kids, but for our entire family. When there are other facilities like Farm Credit with that same goal in mind, it means everything to me.”
Bradley Barkley attended Farm Credit’s July 2018 Farmer Veteran legislative fly-in Washington, D.C. For more information about Farm Credit’s support for veterans, please visit www.farmcredit.com/veterans.