Mike Denton, 53
4th Generation Farmer

Hometown: Princeton, IL, pop. 7500
Family: Wife, Suzanne, 4 adult children, 1 super cute grandbaby
Education: Ag. Mechanics; IL Valley Community College
Community Involvement: Elks Club Member, Past 4-H Member and Leader, Past Farm Bureau Board Member, IL Farm Bureau “Ag Leader of Tomorrow” Graduate

Mike Denton (in driver’s seat) with his family.

“There wasn’t the money for hired men or any of that,” Denton said.  “We were probably farming 500-600 acres at that time. My dad and mom farmed by themselves, so if someone was old enough to work ground – that’s what you did.”

Mike Denton was seven years old when he started working on his Dad’s farm in Princeton, Il. His first job was driving tractors, then pickups and finally working the land and helping in their seed store in the winters.

Denton’s early memories include walking beans, baling hay, stacking seed bags and rising at 4 a.m. to ride along with his dad and other local farmers who spent their winters delivering seed from the local plant to other dealers, who lived in adjoining states.

Mike Denton (in glasses at right) with his father Denny and brother Dan.

“It was exhausting for them but I remember all of us who were working, us all sitting down together to eat, and really enjoying that camaraderie. It was neat as a kid to be hanging out with these guys,” said Denton.

A lot has changed for Denton since those early days of farming; most notably the size of the operation. When he joined his dad, Denny, they started adding land and now farm 2700 acres of primarily corn with the help of several employees.

He says much of farming these days is more mental than physical.

“We have to know more about yields and soil testing, fertilizer rates and also realize that the soil is alive and always changing,” said Denton.  “There is so much more office work. We now also have to have a lot of capital, know how to work with bankers and landlords, and be very aware of our balance sheets. It is mentally tough.”

Denton’s family lives in the same house on the same land his great-grandfather owned and while there have been a multitude of advancements in agriculture the focus for the Denton family has remained the same.

“We like to help people learn and grow their businesses,” said Denton.  “We ARE growing food for everyone, and sometimes I feel like we are doing that for not a whole lot of pay; the expenses, costs and risks are tremendous; but nobody ever thinks about not doing it. The way the population is growing we are going to have to continue growing more with the land we have. We keep trying to improve ourselves, do more with less, and feed more people while protecting the environment.”

Denton says showcasing farmers at the Rose Parade in January of 2018 is a huge platform to be able to share and bring light to the role of agriculture in America.

“Being in the Rose Parade celebrates those who have lived and worked in farming to provide safe and plentiful food to the world,” Denton said.  “As Americans, most of us spend less than 10% of our household incomes on food! This contributes so much to people’s style of living when they aren’t using 40% of their income for food like in some countries.”

You can catch Mike Denton, along with 100 other Farmers Making a Difference, on the Ag PhD float at the Rose Parade on January 1, 2018.  If you are unable to attend in person, RFD-TV airs live coverage of the parade each year.  Check your local listings and channel guides.