Fridays on the Farm: An Opportunity of a Lifetime

This Friday meet Jesse Hegemann, a first-generation farmer and rancher from Burchard, Nebraska. Growing up, Jesse developed a passion for agriculture while helping on his uncles’ farms and watching his dad raise hogs. He aspired to start his own operation, but without an easy claim to land, it seemed like a difficult path to pursue until he found a unique opportunity with a local farmer.

Five people standing in field
Jesse Hegemann with his wife, Joni, and their three children, Madison, Kennedy, and Peyton. Photo by Sydney Erickson, FSA. 

A Valuable Connection

“Growing up my mom and dad owned the local plumbing and heating business in Howells,” he said. “My dad always wanted to come back and farm full-time, but the ‘80s hit, and my grandpa said that wasn’t going to be able to happen. He was still active and had hogs, but the hog business eventually ended up selling out.”

While Jesse didn’t have a family claim to farmland, he knew he wanted to work in agriculture in some way. It was this mindset that led him to pursue his associate degree through the agriculture program at Southeast Community College – Beatrice. There, Jesse got the opportunity of a lifetime by connecting with Dennis Schuster, a local farmer and landowner. 

“A farmer came to school looking for help. I interviewed with him and started working for him,” Jesse said. “He said, ‘Someday I’m going to want to retire. Would you want to take over?’ I said, ‘heck yes.’ It’s always been a dream of mine to be a farmer.” 

Person feeding cattle
Jesse got the opportunity of a lifetime when he met a local farmer. Photo by Sydney Erickson, FSA.

Getting Established 

While working for Dennis, they learned about the Transition Incentives Program (TIP) through USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). TIP provides landowners or operators with two additional annual rental payments on land enrolled in expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts provided they sell or rent the land to a beginning, veteran or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher.

Dennis had CRP land coming out of contract, so he and Jesse seized the opportunity to use TIP. Later on, Jesse used the program to access more land from two other local landowners. The relationships built and experience gained allowed Jesse and his family to grow a farming operation that now consists of row crop production and a cow-calf herd.

“The Transition Incentives Program is a tool in a young guy’s back pocket to help get those acres when they can’t compete with the older, more established farmer,” Jesse said. “It worked out well for me and helped me get established.” 

Four people and a dog walking in a field amongst cattle
TIP provides an opportunity for beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to purchase or rent land. Photo by Sydney Erickson, FSA.

Beginning Farmer Funding

To purchase the land, Jesse applied for an ownership loan as a beginning farmer with FSA’s farm loan programs. While FSA is fully committed to all farmers and ranchers, there is a special focus on the credit needs of farmers and ranchers who are in their first 10 years of operation. Each year, FSA targets a portion of its lending by setting aside a portion of all loan funds for financing beginning farmer and rancher operations.

“There is no way, as a young guy, when you have nothing, that you can walk in and say you want to buy a quarter (section of land),” Jesse said. “The banks are going to tell you ‘keep walking,’ so I definitely relied on the FSA to purchase this first piece of ground.”

Jesse now has access to land in three counties in southeast Nebraska. Looking back on his career in agriculture, Jesse believes TIP played a pivotal role in the operation he has today. 

Three people tickling a dog
Jesse’s children with their dog on his operation in Burchard. Photo by Sydney Erickson, FSA.

“There are lots of tools out there that guys can take advantage of to get ahead in today’s world,” Jesse said. “The farming community is good but can be tough for a young guy wanting to start. The Transition Incentives Program is one of the tools that helped me out. It takes that and hard work to get things going.” 

More Information

Visit local farms, ranches, forests, and resource areas through our Fridays on the Farm stories. Meet farmers, producers and landowners who are working to improve their operations with USDA programs.

New to farming? Want to learn how to start a farm? USDA offers dedicated help to beginning farmers and ranchers

USDA offers a variety of risk management, disaster assistance, loan, and conservation programs to help producers weather ups and downs in the market and recover from natural disasters as well as invest in improvements to their operations. Learn about additional programs.

For more information about USDA programs and services, contact your local USDA service center.


Sydney Erickson is an intern with FSA in Nebraska. For more information about this story, contact Bobbie Kriz-Wickham, state public affairs and outreach coordinator.