By Skyler Ballard
After long hours of working in the fields, Drew Snider stretches and hops down off his tractor and heads toward the barn. His wife, Laney, greets him with a wide smile and a handful of flowers to deliver to a customer’s car.
When the customers leave, they work to close up their stand beside the barn. Drew walks to the end of the gravel driveway to pull the “open” sign out of the ground, storing it in the barn until they reopen next season.
The Sniders have been running their own small agriculture business, Ruby Branch Farms, for the past three years in Franklin, Kentucky. Newly married and in their early thirties, the couple also owns and operates Drew’s 2,000-acre family farm. Though neither planned on it, they intend to keep the farm and its spirit alive and in the family.
“This land has been important to me all my life,” said Drew. “That’s why I decided to take over, and I’m grateful that Laney is here to help.”
Laney and Drew met at Murray State University, where they both studied agribusiness. Shortly after graduating, they moved to Drew’s hometown of Franklin to take over his father’s farm.
“I didn’t know this was my calling until I got here,” said Laney, who originally attended MSU for its rodeo team with intentions of becoming a professional rodeo athlete. After meeting Drew and then moving onto the farm with him, she realized that she enjoyed farming more than she expected. However, she didn’t expect the hardships that would come with it.
“I grew up very poor, but my parents never had any debt,” said Laney. “So coming to the farm and learning that the only way to be a farmer is to be in debt, it was a total culture shock.”
Drew had always planned on farming like his father someday, but did not consider taking over for his father until his health problems began. At 64, his father, Steve Snider, began having difficulty keeping up with the taxing shores of running the 2,000-acre farm. Well above the average age of farmers and with increasing health issues, Steve began worrying about the future of his land. He knew that Drew was his only hope in keeping the farm in his family, and luckily for him, Drew agreed to take over.
“Farming isn’t easy. It never has been,” said Steve. He recalls the “good ol’ days” when he could make his own schedule and grow whatever he wanted. Now, growing anything is a gamble and insurance is continually on the rise, threatening them and small family-operated farms across the country.
“Times are tougher now, it seems like,” said Drew. “Most of this town, even, was full of family farms, and now I don’t know how many are left.”
This is a reoccurring problem around the U.S as larger agribusinesses continue to out-grow, out-number, and out-sell family-owned farms. Family history, such as the Sniders’, is in jeopardy, with generations of land continuing to be bought and developed.
“I couldn’t let this land go to anyone else,” said Drew. “So I knew I had to come back here and take over.”
After graduation and moving to Franklin, the Sniders decided they wanted to do more than just continue the family farm. They agreed to put their agribusiness degrees to use and started Ruby Branch, which Laney refers to as an “agventure.” Both currently work full-time at what they call their “public jobs” — she works for a seed and chemical company, he works for a crop insurance company — but hope that Ruby Branch will eventually be able to keep them financial stable enough to quit their day jobs.
“We wanted to really diversify the crops we grow on the family farm, so that’s why we started the mums and the pumpkin patch,” said Laney. Aside from the business, Laney also creates flower arrangements for various clients around Franklin with her partner, Kim Roberts.
“I don’t know how Laney and Drew do it,” said Roberts. “But I admire the work they put into this place.”
During the few years it’s been up and running, Ruby Branch has taken off. The couple sold over 1,000 mums this season, three times as many as the previous year. Laney recalls how the local FFA chapter bought so many that they had to restock with mums from a friend’s farm to get them through.
Though Franklin wasn’t where either imagined they would end up, the Sniders have started construction on a house on the farm and are happy to settle there.
“Sometimes it’s taxing because we’re together practically all the time, but at the same time it helps us,” said Drew. “All in all, it’s worth it.”