Working with Dad: The Early Bird Gets the Best Tractor

Business Analyst and Tractor Driver Krista Willis

Most family members call dibs on the last brownie. Krista and her dad squabble over one thing – her favorite tractor. Who knew that generations of women have been driving tractors and semi-trucks on farms for more than half a century?

Tell us a bit about your farm.

Our farm has three full-time employees – me, my dad and my husband. We raise corn and soybeans together on the farm where I grew up in Wilmar, Minnesota. 

Have you always been a farmer?

No, I was a retail general manager for almost 30 years, where I did a lot of business analysis. And I brought that experience with me when I started working full-time on the farm. 

How do your business analysis skills apply at the farm?

I had an interest in adopting conservation practices for the long-term health of our soil. After a lot of research, we signed up with the USDA Conservation Stewardship Program to do grid sampling. That means we started taking soil samples on each field in order to more precisely apply things like fertilizer or weed killers. The results have caused us to make different decisions than we would have without the data. And I know more than I ever wanted to about fertilizer and seeds!

Not everyone gets to work with their dad. What is that like for you?

He’s a nice teacher. He loves to talk about what’s happening on the farm. And he’s also the one who taught me how to drive the combine. Dad makes it his mission to wake up earlier than me so he can drive our favorite tractor.

What part of farming makes you feel strong?

I love driving the combine. My mom also drove our tractors. People don’t typically think of women out there driving big farming equipment. But women have been out there doing it for years and years. 

What good advice has someone given you lately?

That we need to get up and make the most of each day. We can do a lot of planning for the future, or dwell in the past. But living in the moment is what we really have to do.




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