High yield... Young Mercer County farmer mixes farming with a ministry

Posted on Feb 5, 2012
Derek Baker guided his pickup truck down the winding country lane and into the parking lot of Mount Pleasant Church. Stepping out of the truck he glanced across the narrow road at a field where a herd of feeder cattle were grazing; a scene similar to one on his nearby farm.

Sporting a “Farm Credit Services” camouflage cap, plaid shirt, denim jacket, jeans and workboots, Baker had the look of the enterprising young farmer that he is. Hard to imagine that this young man is not only a fulltime farmer, but is pastor of that little church on a knoll overlooking pastureland in Mercer County, just west of Harrodsburg.

Even the 29-year-old Baker acknowledges that his ministry is a bit surprising.

“I hate public speaking,” he explained. “I didn’t have any intentions whatsoever to be a minister. This came about during a very difficult time in my life. It was a result of a time when my life was chaos.”

Since embracing religion and focusing on a farming partnership with his father, Baker says he’s living a fulfilling life with his wife Becky and daughters Alyssa (10) and Emma (7). And Farm Bureau fits in the mix of his exhausting lifestyle: He serves as a Director of Mercer County FB. Last year that organization presented him with its annual “outstanding young farmer of the year” award.

At a recent meeting several Mercer County FB leaders described Baker as “hard working,” “humble,” and “focused.”

Baker’s childhood on a farm and within a religious family certainly prepared him for his role. His father, Charles, has raised cattle and tobacco for many years in western Mercer County and was a deacon and songleader at Bohon Christian Church.

Derek was very active with FFA at Mercer County High School and had every intention of farming fulltime when he graduated. But when he and Becky had their first child, he took a factory job because of the stable income it provided.

“But I didn’t like that all,” he recalled.

He got re-involved with the family farming operation which now encompasses feeder cattle, a 75-head cow-calf operation, 15 acres of tobacco plus corn and hay to feed the herd. But during that period of young adulthood, Baker says he was dissatisfied with life. That became worse, he recalled, when a close friend was killed in an accident.

“I felt then that God really wanted me to do something special with my life,” he said. “I was feeling very empty. At that time (2003) Lewis Walter, who had retired as minister at Bohon (Christian Church), was serving as interim minister here at Mount Pleasant. He was a mentor to me. We talked, and I decided to pursue the ministry here.”

Founded in 1852 by Presbyterians, the Mount Pleasant Community Church currently has around 100 members, according to Baker, who performs a Sunday service, teaches adult Sunday School and Wednesday night bible study. Then there are the other responsibilities that come with leading a congregation – hospital visits, weddings, funerals, counseling, etc.

And as if farming, ministry and fatherhood aren’t enough, Baker also has a tree service business (a partnership).

“I’m looking to sell out my part of that,” he said, grinning. “I don’t need to be tied to all these things. It has gotten to be difficult to handle all of it.”

Baker says his sermons are hand-written, usually at night. “Sometimes I don’t know what I will talk about until Saturday night,” he said. “I usually go with that I feel in my heart at the time. I like speaking in a teaching style; like just having a conversation with a friend. I think the most important thing of the ministry is keeping reality in mind. They (the congregation) want to know that the bible is written for them. So I try to keep it real, to relate how the bible relates to their lives.”

He went to Bible College and was ordained through the church.

Although he maintains a “crazy” schedule and rarely finds time for his favorite hobbies (hunting and fishing), Baker is content.

“Farming was my dream. Ministry was my calling. I like what I do. I feel fortunate.”

Tagged Post Topics Include: KYFB, Mercer County, Young Farmers