A Father’s Guidance
Steve Snider still follows the advice of his late father and plans to hand it off, along with the family farm, to the next generation.
By Tanner Latham | Photos By Benjamin Zack
Winter farm work in Lerna, Ill., was typically slow. So, Bill Snider encouraged his teenage son Steve to spend those days looking off the farm for productive things to do. The young man occupied his time with odd jobs, including a stint as an equipment operator at a landfill. He also completed computer science courses at the nearby college after the subject piqued his interest.
However, the elder Snider’s nudging served a purpose greater than earning extra money or filling the idle hours. It was a proverbial push from the nest.
“Looking back, Dad was urging me to get out and not just be dependent on the farm,” says Steve, who is now 38. “He wanted me to broaden my spectrum on the world … to get a sense of the world and how other bosses are, to see how things work differently.”
But Steve says his dad was the best boss of them all. “He taught me about management,” says Steve. “Not to overextend yourself. Stay within your means. Try to be a good steward of the ground. And he taught me about conservation, so you don’t lose what you’ve got.”
Steve’s off-the-farm experiences just seemed to make him appreciate his family’s corn and bean operation all the more. “I decided that coming back to the farm was the only thing to do,” he says. “It still felt right.”
There for Each Other
Bill was always there for his son. When Steve drove a tractor for the first time, Dad was right alongside.
And even when Bill developed colon and liver cancer—a disease he fought off and on for about a dozen years, rendering him too sick to work the farm—he still instructed Steve on the finances, the day-to-day tasks and the big decisions. Steve had to step up, he says, explaining how his dad being slowed by illness “prepared me more than anything, because I had to do all the work on the farm. He was around to help advise, but I was actually doing it.”
Bill eventually developed cirrhosis of the liver. And when he passed last Leap Day while waiting for a transplant, Steve was grief-stricken but ready to take over.