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Agriculture Calls Couple Home To New Opportunities

Derek at Walther Farms

This Premier Partner Spotlight from Walther Farms was written by Erika Robinson.

Southwest Michigan has always felt like home to us. We moved away to pursue college degrees and our first jobs out west, but a piece of us has always been here and always wanted to come back. Try as we might, we never could call any other place home.

Derek and I were married in 2009. Because both of us graduated college shortly after the recession, our friends and family back home were skeptical that we would be able to find jobs in the area. Fearing that we would spend months unemployed while living in our parent's basement (every newlywed's worst nightmare), we didn't even look. Encouraged by some employed friends out West, we packed our Ford Focus to the brim and headed to Colorado where we would spend the next three years starting our careers.

Our extended families have deep roots in Southwest Michigan. My grandfather, a retiree of The Upjohn Company, still tells horror stories of his commute on I-94 during the harsh Michigan winters of the '70s and '80s. The original Robinson homestead (now a Michigan Centennial Farm) in Decatur, Mich., is still operating and is home to Derek's 90-year-old grandmother.

Both of our families originally operated small family farms. Derek's family was in hog farming and mine were dairy farmers. You could say agriculture is in our blood. We were the first of both our families to move away from home.

Once we had our first child, Makenzie, our desire to move back home only grew. At the same time Derek was looking for a career change and agriculture was calling his name. Although the mountains of Colorado had a lot to offer, agriculture jobs were few and far between.

After about a month of serious searching, Derek was lucky enough to secure a job offer at a fantastic local company, Walther Farms. Walther Farms is a family owned potato farm headquartered in Three Rivers, Mich. They have several locations throughout the country covering more than 12,000 acres, and employ about 150 people.

Although they grow several different varieties of potatoes, their bread-and-butter is growing for potato chip production.

Even after securing a good job offer, we were still hesitant to move back. Many of our friends and family members continued to believe a good life in this part of Michigan was difficult if not impossible. When Derek started working for the farm, we kept waiting for the "bad stuff" to come. Walther Farms really seemed too good to be true. I m happy to report, the "bad stuff" never came.

Two years later, we are still consistently surprised by the opportunities provided to us through Walther Farms. It's better than we ever imagined.

Their motto: "Growing People by Growing Potatoes" couldn't be truer.

They are so much more than a potato farm, demonstrated by their focus on the development of employees. Their willingness to see the potential in someone like Derek, who prior to Walther Farms had no potato experience whatsoever, has taken his career to the next level. He's at a place where neither one of us thought he'd be in such a short period of time.

The truth is, despite what some may think, Southwest Michigan and the greater Kalamazoo community are great places to live. Sure, you have to work hard and be patient, but there is unbelievable opportunity here for those who seek it out. Not only have we both been given fantastic career opportunities, but we were able to purchase our first home and finally feel like we have both feet on the ground.

Now, as a family of four, we know we can provide the kind of life for our kids that we've always dreamed of.

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