The City Lights Of the Dreessen FarmMay 27, 2022 03:30PM ● By Patrick McGee
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Approximately 12 miles north of Village Pointe in Omaha, between dusty grain bins, there is an old metal barn full of cherry red tractors. The Dreessens, a multi-generational family of farmers, congregate here often after long days of working the land. They are generous to guests with cold ones and are inclusive in their shop talk. Many visitors wander in from neighboring crop fields, and frequently. Taylor Dreessen, 23, is the youngest Dreessen still farming.
Taylor’s father, Tim, and grandfather, Wayne, 77, ran the family farm long before Taylor was born. In fact, the family lineage of farmers goes back to times in which crop fields dominated Douglas County, long before Wayne drove a tractor. Wayne said the Dreessens once farmed land that is now part of the city of Omaha—where there is a Walmart. The Dreessens are unmistakably agronomists, and Taylor is no exception. He views cultivating the family's 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans as a duty and an honor.
Throughout the interview, the reserved Taylor repeatedly deflected questions to his dad, grandpa, and wife Miriam, all of whom he invited to sit in with him.
Taylor is young for a career farmer. Tim said there aren’t many young people farming. Taylor, Tim, and Wayne agree that the initial investment of land and equipment is prohibitive to entry into the field, but that wasn’t always the case. Taylor said he is fortunate to have come from a lineage that can provide the opportunity to be involved, and because it’s something he grew up with, he wanted to continue it. Nevertheless, Taylor’s love for the soil is undeniable in the way he spends his so-called free time working the earth.
The Dreessens said that in order to survive, modern farmers must bring something more to the table. Many have side jobs. Many bale hay. Others seed. Some sell crop insurance. Taylor’s side job is more technical and pragmatic—he is a trained diesel mechanic. A young farmer is a rarity, but he is poised to continue successfully, in part, because his trade has synergy with agriculture.
He went to college for diesel-Ag. technology and works full time as a mechanic. He reinvests his income and skills into the farm. His valuable skills shine in a tangible way. It is Taylor who maintains and repairs the farm equipment, reducing family costs considerably. His father tells of a recent transmission rebuild that saved tens of thousands of dollars, and further, Tim said that many repairs require long waits that would be crippling to most farmers.
Miriam, also 23, grew up on a cul-de-sac in the city. Her presence complements the family like a pristine urban development does the edge of a cropfield—new to the landscape, but designed for it. The couple met at 16 at Bennington High School, on the outskirts of the Omaha metro in an area half-urban and half-rural, but likely to one day be engulfed by suburban development. She is a medical sonographer at an Omaha hospital. Her skill set does not necessarily translate to farming, but her shared interests with Taylor help facilitate their longevity in agriculture—shooting, hunting, fishing, playing outdoors, and getting dirty. These pastimes require open spaces, something that the Dreessens have in abundance.
However, the world is closing in on such spaces, and urban crawl can nearly be seen from the gravel pad on which the Dreessens park their trucks outside the shop—a “third place” where passersby on the road stop when they see a truck outside. All are welcome. Too few places like this exist outside of their world.
In the shop, the Dreessens and company crack open cold drinks after long days of labor. They pour generations of knowledge into Taylor so that he may carry on his family’s legacy—and Taylor absorbs their generational experience like the crop fields do after a generous spring rain.
Much to Taylor’s good fortune, no irrigation is needed on the Dreessen farm, and the soil is unusually fertile. The land is invaluable, but the Dreessens will never sell it. So, as the city encroaches, it cannot overtake the family farm, but it can change the landscape. It will change future generations. The sun will set a little higher, over the roofs of expanding suburbs. Cul-de-sacs will eventually replace county roads.
No doubt, the nearby city lights already obscure the night sky on the periphery of the Dreessen farm.
This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.