Call to Farming Keeps Historic Kansas Farm Going
June 20, 2023
Written By Adam Buckallew
The Gilliland family has roots running deep in the gently rolling hills of eastern Kansas. Five generations of Gillilands have cultivated the sandy loam in Miami County. Here, along the gravel roads bordered by fields of row crops and pasture, the family has proudly farmed the land since 1896.
In late April, the Gillilands had just finished planting this season’s corn acreage and were preparing to transition to soybeans. Jerry, an MFA Oil delegate, works alongside his father, Gary, and his son, Levi. The family farms land in three Kansas counties (Franklin, Johnson and Miami). Dividing the workload among the three of them, a few part-time employees and seasonal helpers ensures crucial activities like planting and harvest are completed on time.
Born to Farm
Each of the Gilliland men has chosen to follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Gary, Jerry and Levi say farming is a satisfying but challenging profession.
“I’ve been on a tractor for basically all of my life,” said Gary, 80, who fondly recalls riding with his dad on their Allis-Chalmers tractor. “My father had a little box made, and I rode on that little tractor with him every day since I was two years old.”
“It’s a good life if you can tolerate all the ups and downs,” he said.
When Jerry was younger, he split his time between work on the family farm and a job in town. When the demands of the family’s farming operation grew, he returned to the farm full-time at age 25. Thirty years later, he has no regrets.
“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” Jerry said. “I’ve been involved in other businesses in the past—we had a trucking operation at one time—but none of it excites me in the same way as farming.”
Like his grandfather, Levi, 29, has been riding in tractors since he was old enough to walk. From a young age, Levi knew he wanted to farm when he grew up. In his childhood, he was known for deconstructing farm equipment to learn how it works. As agricultural technology has advanced, Levi has grown to become the family’s technical specialist. He monitors the family’s farm equipment with an app on his phone and brings new ideas to the table.
A Cooperative Partner
Jerry said his family is thankful for reliable suppliers like MFA Oil, who “take great care of us.” The Gillilands buy all of their fuel, propane and lubricants from the co-op, and Jerry has served as a delegate since MFA Oil acquired Lybarger Oil, Inc. in 2015.
“Becoming a delegate was one of the best moves I’ve ever made,” he said. “I’ve met so many good people and learned a lot. I was amazed when I heard about all the scholarships and grants MFA Oil gives back to our local communities.”
Jerry values being a member of the co-op and the partnership that it brings.
“They take care of us, and we know we can count on them,” he said. “If something comes up, the employees are always quick to help. The service is top-notch.”
The Gillilands said they’ve never had any issues with the fuel they buy, and they appreciate the monitors that MFA Oil installed to ensure they have plenty of energy to keep their machinery moving.
“The monitors are a godsend,” Jerry said. “When five or six people pull fuel out of your tanks on a given day, it can be hard to know when to call for a delivery. The monitors have kept us fueled up and saved us from many headaches.”
But more than anything else, Jerry appreciates the people at MFA Oil.
“It all boils down to the people,” he said. “Everyone we work with is kind, helpful and has a good attitude. We’ve had two people who used to work for us on the farm that went to work at MFA Oil and loved it. Many companies talk about how they are like a family. I think a lot of that is baloney. But I believe it with MFA Oil.”