By Toni W. Riley
When Joseph Sisk was a student at Christian County High School and at the University of Kentucky he never thought he would have a career in production agriculture as a full-time farmer. However, his wife Lisa, whom he dated in high school and college, knew different.
“I could just see it coming” she said smiling.
Joseph, the 2014 Christian County Farmer of the Year, and Lisa have been able to successfully balance her career as a school psychologist with his in a large-scale farming operation, where he raises corn, wheat, soybeans and canola, along with three active children.The Sisk family smiles for a photo on their farm.
Joseph’s road to a full-time farmer didn’t come immediately. It came when he started studying ag biotechnology at the University of Kentucky. He graduated with a degree in animal science and thought he might go into some field of animal health.
The couple moved to Hopkinsville in 1996 where Joseph began working at Security Seed and Lisa began graduate work in school psychology. They were married in 1997.
Joseph worked for Security Seed for three years and during that time he gradually began to feel the call to be a farmer.
When Security Seed was slow, Joseph went back and worked a couple of months on the family farm Sisk and Junker, a partnership with his dad, Marion Sisk Jr., and his uncle, Roger Junker.
“My Dad never encouraged me to become a farmer,” Joseph noted. “He always encouraged me to work somewhere else.” However, it was during those times that he decided he wanted to own his own business.
Lisa was very supportive of the career move, even though it would mean a change in his hours and work schedule.
“Whatever made him happy, it didn’t matter what the job was,” she said.
Joseph was quick to point out that Lisa understood hard work and long hours from her own upbringing.
“Lisa comes from a family of hardworking people,” he said. “Her family worked in the coal mines and then came home and raised tobacco. She knew about this not being a 9-5 job.”
Joseph purchased his Uncle Roger’s portion of the partnership and began full-time farming in 2000.
Between 2001 and 2008, the couple had their children — Victoria, 13, Lauren, 10, and Hugh, 5. Each of the children has their own interests. Victoria plays soccer, Lauren loves dance and Hugh received a preschool certificate for “most likely to work at SeaWorld.”
Lisa says the secret to managing the different activities is flexibility and having a strong support system including grandparents and friends who can help out in a moment’s notice.
A typical day during the school year and heavy farming season has Joseph getting up at 5:15 a.m. for his quiet time, the kids are up by 6:15 a.m., Joseph is out the door by 6:45 a.m. and Lauren catches her bus at 7 a.m. Lisa takes Victoria and Hugh to school a few minutes later.
“We can get ready quickly,” Lisa laughed.
While none of the children consider themselves “farm kids;” they all agree they are “outdoor kids.” They all spend a good deal of time with their grandfather, Marion, riding the ATV and playing and fishing in Sinking Fork Creek that borders the farm.
Both Joseph and Lisa are adamant that there is no pressure for their children to have a career in agriculture, but Joseph is insistent that all his children understand the farm and where their livelihood comes from.
“This year Victoria will ride with me everyday during wheat harvest,” he said. “All the kids will when they get old enough. I want them to see what I do and what goes on in the farming operation.”
The Sisks say that the keys to their success as a family is not having a strict schedule, talking to each other and not keeping score of what they do as parents, so they don’t feel resentment toward each other over what doesn’t get done.
Both agree that Joseph’s career is demanding, but they always take a vacation and spend time at Lake Barkley. Although there are long hours and stress, Joseph is proud to have a career where he makes his own decisions and truly enjoys what he does.