Wilson admits the young Sunrise trio is an extreme exception: “I don’t know of another farm right now that has such a young outfit; we’re the youngest I know of. In fact, I can’t think of any farm in my whole life where the crew was this young. But let me tell, we work hard. Yes, we sure have fun sometimes, but we get the job done first. It just works.”

Holdeman also had a reputation as an excellent worker. Neblett had heard from multiple sources that Holdeman was a highly capable jack-of-all-trades. “He’s been on a farm since he could walk. Farming is what Ben Holdeman knows and he literally handles any task on the farm, period.”

Combine, grain truck, buggy or sprayer — Holdeman is at ease. “We get on great. Thomas lets us know what needs to get done and everybody takes care of their work.”

Neblett loves the camaraderie he shares with Wilson and Holdeman. “It makes for a great time on the farm and we’re all close to the same age. Both of them have the drive to work harder, work more and show what they can do.”

But what do three young farmers do when they hit the wall? Crops in the ground can often breed indecision and Neblett admits the Sunrise crew is still learning. He never moves blind and often takes questions to producer Bill Steed, 76, who is always nearby to offer advice for the operation. Planting seed, shifting ground, or irrigating — Steed is a well of knowledge.

Whenever Neblett mentions Steed, he speaks with deep appreciation: “Bill loves farming more than anyone else I’ve ever met — no question. He lives and breathes farming; this is all he’s ever wanted to do. Bill has taught me all the little things I would never have known. It’s pretty simple: I honestly doubt there’s anybody that knows as much about farming as he does.”


See here for a photo gallery of Neblett and the Sunrise crew.


Steed retired a few years ago after working for Rives Neblett for approximately 35 years, but when Thomas Neblett began farming at Sunrise in the fall of 2011, Steed stepped back in the farming ring. “I’m blessed to have Bill Steed working with me. I respect him almost more than anyone I know and he is part of the family.

Steed says the Sunrise outfit is beyond remarkable. “Thomas: He’s smart, not afraid, learns fast, and is a farmer. I’m talking about a real farmer. Ben Wilson: He knows mechanics backward and forwards. Ben Holdeman: That young kid can handle himself on anything.”

All farms have their good fields and bad fields, but the Sunrise acreage is remarkably clean and tight. Neblett is a classic mouthful-of-dirt farmer, swinging a hoe at pigweed or driving a sprayer. From his perspective, it’s simply a matter of what needs to be done. Major or menial, Neblett does the work with his own hands whenever possible.