Farming and ranching are both a struggle against and collaboration with natural forces beyond one’s control. To walk this tightrope well enough to grow crops or raise livestock for a living, one must rely on knowledge not only from predecessors but also from those who dare to innovate.
Jimmie Steidinger knows this all too well. When he ventured out on his own, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agents helped him and his crops yield their true potential. Though neither he nor his wife, Barbara, attended Texas A&M University, the couple is now developing the next generation of farmers and ranchers through scholarships for Aggies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Raised on a dairy farm in Donna, Texas, a rural community in the Rio Grande Valley, Jimmie found the hard edge of farm life at an early age. When he was 12 years old, a bull killed his father, leaving Jimmie and his mother to fend for themselves. “I worked full time seven days a week until I was 18,” he recalled. Assuming his late father’s responsibilities, Jimmie began work at five in the morning, attended school until the afternoon and worked deep into the evening before he hit the hay to tackle the next day. This hardscrabble routine heavily influenced his later work habits.
At 18, Jimmie struck out on his own to grow cotton and grain in Donna. “The first two years weren’t good,” he said. “I didn’t break even farming, so I rough-necked in oil fields at night to pay bills for three years.” Determined to finish what he started, Jimmie sought advice and eventually crossed paths with Dr. Jose Amador, a Cuban immigrant who became a plant pathologist. At the time, Jose was the Texas Agricultural Extension Service expert on the control of plant diseases, working out of the service’s research center in Weslaco. Amador helped diagnose and treat diseases and other problems in Jimmie’s crops, including field crops, vegetables and later citrus—a mentorship relationship that introduced the young farmer to Texas A&M.
In the decades since, Jimmie found great success growing citrus. Feeling indebted to those who invested their time, energy and funds in him when he needed it most, Jimmie and Barbara have contributed more than $550,000 to scholarships for agriculture students, including multiple planned gifts through charitable remainder unitrusts. “It’s even harder today to work on a farm or a ranch without an education,” he said. “We want to help kids attend college and learn because if we don’t have food, we don’t have anything.”
To learn how you can support tomorrow's agriculturalists with a planned gift for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, please contact Kelsey Christian '02 by completing the form below.
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