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OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — Maceo farmer Tanner Stroup is a rare commodity these days.

At age 24, Stroup is bringing youth to an otherwise aging profession.

According to the USDA's Census of Agriculture, the average age of a Kentucky farmer is 57.6 years old while the U.S. average is 58.3 years old.

Stroup, who is originally from Lewisport, is also unique in that he wasn't born into a generational Kentucky farm family.

His exposure to farming came during the summers he spent as a teenager working on the Anthony, Kansas, farm of his great-uncle Ray Graves.

"My great-uncle out in Kansas farmed wheat and cattle," Stroup said. "I'd help them run combines out there thrashing wheat. And that's when the bug bit me, I guess."

In 2012, the year before Stroup graduated from Hancock County High School, the Stroup family invested in a 100-acre farm in Lewisport.

"We started there and kept going," Stroup said.

And in a matter of seven years, Stroup has gone from farming 100 acres to about 5,200 acres in Daviess and Hancock counties.

The Stroups now own more than 1,000 acres and lease the rest of the farmland for growing corn, soybeans and wheat.

"We just expanded with the (retired farmers)," said Stroup, whose family business is called First Class Services Inc.

Stroup's father, Randy, already owned a trucking business prior to getting into farming. The trucking operation is now part of hauling grain.

"You've got to have trucks to farm; they go hand-in-hand," Stroup said.

Stroup said he's "hands-on" when it comes to the farm operation, his father oversees the trucking side while his sister, Cessilee, helps with the financial end.

The Stroups also have five employees who help run the farming operation.

One of them is Jeff Bratcher, who Stroup considers his "right-hand."

Bratcher has experience in both farming and trucking.

Bratcher said he was driving for Randy Stroup when he was pulled from there to help with the farming side.

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"I've been with them since day one. I'm impressed (with Tanner)," Bratcher said. "He doesn't mind working."

The Stroups have moved their main operation to Maceo where the bulk of their farmland is located.

Stroup and his fiancee, Sarah, have purchased a house there as well.

Despite his youth, Stroup is no different than most farmers who are itching to get out into their fields this time of year.

He has his brand-new 24-row, high-speed 1775 NT corn planter already attached to his John Deere tractor in preparation for spring planting.

"As soon as the weather breaks, we'll start putting down the (anhydrous) gas and putting the fertilizer down," Stroup said. "We'll actually try to plant a few beans in the time, too, if the ground is dry enough. We've been trying to plant beans as early as we can and get a yield bump from that."

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Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer, 270-691-7299

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