Getting to know you; Justin Obenchain
Justin Obenchain is a local farmer in Hawesville. He, his wife Chrystal, and his younger brother, Dylan, all work together raising alfalfa and sweet corn. He purchased his family’s farm in 2015 from his grandfather, the late Jim Obenchain, and they produced their first crop of corn in 2016.
Justin is President of the Board of Directors for the Hancock County Farm Bureau. He and local agent Kyle Culbreth, went to receive recognition at the 103rd Kentucky Farm Bureau meeting in Louisville on Friday, December 2nd, on behalf of the county board and office, for their achievements. “Actually, Kyle and the ladies do most of the work. I just happen to be president of the board,” he said.
Obenchain is also Chairman of the Agriculture Development Board and the Extension Council for Hancock County. “I think they are all vital to keep the county Ag sector alive,” Justin said. “The Council – that has our extension office and our 4-H program, which are very important.
The kids are the future and we want to make sure the 4-H program goes strong with the products that (extension agents) Evan (Tate) and Lisa (Hagman) offer for the farmers. The Homemakers are tied in with that as well, which is also a very good thing. Anytime you can serve to better your community, it’s a blessing when you see it come through.”
He added, “It’s not hard to serve on a board when you’ve got people like Kyle at the Farm Bureau and Lisa and Evan at the extension office. Both of our extension agents are great. You couldn’t ask for better. They really care about the children and the farmers and they’re great people.”
Justin graduated from Hancock County High School in 2005. He was active in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and grew up raising tobacco on his family’s farm. “We’ve always been involved in Ag and as I got older, I got involved with Farm Bureau through my boss, David Winchell,” he said. “I came to work for him full-time in 2010. We try to do everything we can locally to promote Ag.” He worked in production at Aleris for 4 years before starting at Winchell Farms.
He and Chrystal were married in 2010 and are blessed with 2 children. “Connor is my oldest and Harlan is by baby,” Justin said. “Connor is 6 and Harlan will be 3 on the 31st of December.”
They live on the farm where he grew up. “My brother lives in Breck County now, but he helps me all the time here on the farm,” Justin said. “We’ve been fortunate and blessed to have a community that supports us so much.” They raise sweet corn that many in the community love and also started raising alfalfa. “It’s turned into a pretty good business (alfalfa). It’s young yet,” he said. “We’ve got some really good clients who are good to work with and it’s all horse hay is what we’re selling.”
Justin said Dylan has been helping with the farm since day one and Dylan’s fiance, Summer, pitches-in when she can as well. “He has a full-time job too (at Yager Materials). When he’s not at work, he’s with us. He and my wife, they bale right in and get it done. It’s all family, and it’s working out pretty well. We don’t like to take individual credit. We’ve just been blessed.”
Obenchain Farms is licensed with Kentucky Proud. “We believe in that program whole-heartedly,” Justin said. “That’s been a big thing that Commissioner Quarles has done and we really appreciate it. It keeps local farms from being over-run with commercial stuff. It’s been a big asset to the State and to us as well. We try our very best to put out the best quality we can every year. We stay with it, keep an eye on it and do the very best we can. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, but we strive for the very best product we can sell.”
They deliver to some of their customers who aren’t able to travel to the farm, but mostly sell everything right out of the farm. “We pick it all by hand,” he said. “You can come to the field with us.”
Chrystal grew up in Hancock County as well. Her parents are Jeff & Tina Connor. She works full-time from home for Movement Mortgage, based in South Carolina. “She’s always been wonderful,” Justin said. “My wife, she’s phenomenal. She helps just like everybody else.”
Justin & Chrystal have grown a vegetable garden in the past, and have been talking about getting back into it. “I love to see people growing their own vegetables and growing their own food,” he said. “It’s wonderful. I think it’s key to keeping your food cost low and you know where it’s coming from.”
They freeze their own sweet corn, cut off the cob. “That’s one of the benefits to the type of corn that we raise,” he said, “is it’s excellent for freezing. It holds up through the winter really well. We’re seeing people keep it (frozen) through the year and they’re still happy with it, so that makes us happy. We just blanch it and put it in a zip lock bag (for freezing), but my goodness, I’ve heard people doing all kinds of things. Every year somebody will come in to tell us something new they’ve tried and they just love it.”
Justin said his grandparents who really influenced him were the late Jim & Gracie Obenchain. “Growing up with the grandparents and being from such a small town, they taught us to always be honest and do the best you can do. Grandaddy always said, ‘You need to be honest in whatever you do and the rest of it will work out.’”
When he was growing up and involved in FFA, Justin said he always enjoyed the speaking contest. “It gives a platform for later on when you have to speak in public,” he said. “It helps build these kids’ confidence. Even now, I’ll still go down there and judge the regional speaking contest because it’s valuable for the kids to have that opportunity.”
He said he feels that it’s a blessing to be able to raise your own children where you grew up. “To see them have the same small community feel that you grew up with and to be able to know that whenever they start into the programs, that we have such a wealth of programs here. I don’t know what my sons will choose to do, but we have a world of volunteers here that will work with them. I wouldn’t want my kids to grow up anywhere else. They’ll have some of the same teachers that I had and my wife had. I feel like if you have the opportunity to raise your kids where you’re from, it’s always easier.”
Justin said he thinks that we have a great group of children in Hancock County. “We’ve got a good crop of kids and I hope our future stays lookin’ bright because of these kids that we have now,” he said. “I really am hopeful with this crop of kids. These kids we have now, they’re the future of what we’re going to do here and they’re good kids. The parents are great, and we’ve got teachers here that go above and beyond. The community as a whole, you just can’t say enough good things about here.”
By Jennifer Wimmer