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How Dreams Become Legacies:


Ryan, his wife Lauren, and their two kids live on a farm in Panhandle, TX. For the last eight years, they poured their time, energy, and passion into growing Berry Farms and Berry Brothers farming operations. As a young farmer, Ryan brings his hands-on experience to Plains Land Bank by serving as one of our board members. Starting as a kid with a dream inspired by his family, his story is proof that with grit, determination, and the help of the community, new legacies can take root.

Ryan and Lauren both were raised by parents who were raised by farming families. However, neither set of parents ended up farming for a living.

“I vividly remember one time, I was really young, I went out there to see my grandparents, and my dad took me out on the tractor. It was an open-station tractor, no cab.At that young age, I loved tractors and loved everything about farming, but I didn’t particularly like that experience that day,” said Ryan with a grin.

While his first experience on a tractor was less than enjoyable, his dream a of being a farmer had already taken root. “It didn’t change how I felt about it all. think it’s just kind of as cliche as it sounds. It’s kind of in my blood,” said Ryan. Ryan Berry wanted to be a farmer. It was as simple as that. The challenge was how to make it happen. “I didn’t really know how I was going to get to farm. It’s an incredibly hard industry to break into.” But beginning as a middle schooler, he immersed himself in the industry, taking on a summer job at a local farm in Panhandle. He kept at it, too, working long hours in the summer months all the way through high school.

Stubborn Ambitions Birth Opportunities

Even through college, he continued working at the Panhandle farm each summer. During the Fall and Winter, he worked towards his degree in Agriculture and Applied Economics at Texas Tech University. Shortly before his graduation, Ryan applied to grad school, believing that his dream was simply too far-fetched. “About three or four days after | got my acceptance letter for grad school, told my parents, ‘You know what? I’m going to forego grad school. I’m going to come back home. I’m going to work on a farm, and I’m going to find a way to get something started,” said Ryan.

As good fortune would have it, Lauren’s grandmother reached out about a small piece of dryland farm available for rent. She wanted to find a way to bring the farm back into the family. “Lauren and I had been married not even a year. We didn’t have kids. And I thought, ‘Well, if there’s a time to jump off the edge, it’s now. And so we embarked on that journey,” recalled Ryan. Lauren’s family was thrilled. For the first time in 60 years, they had family back on the farm.

Community Roots Nurturing Dreams

While the small piece of family dryland was a start, Ryan said it was not much to live on. They needed more land to make it work long-term. Not long after that, Ryan and Lauren received word that another farm was up for sale. With a hope and prayer, they placed a bid. “We knew it was likely not going to be the high bid, not even close,” said Ryan.

Interestingly enough, Ryan’s mother worked in the tax office at the courthouse in Panhandle at the time. The woman selling the farm walked in one day, and sought out Ryan’s mother. She asked if farming was something Ryan truly wanted to do. “And mom said, ‘Yeah, it’s what he’s wanted to do his whole life.” For the kind woman selling the farm, that settled it. She decided to sell it to Ryan and Lauren.

“I think if anybody tells you that good fortune doesn’t play a big role in getting over that barrier, a lot of times I think they’re mistaken,” said Ryan.

Ryan and Lauren dove into the loan application through the Farm Service Agency. Ryan’s dad knew Steve Donnell from Plains Land Bank and connected the two. From there, the Berrys dreams started to become a reality.

Ryan mentioned how his relationship with Plains Land Bank became even more valuable after he had worked to secure his first loan and then went back to PLB later on. “They already know you, they know your business, they stay in touch, so they know what’s going on. Well, and because of that relationship that they develop, it gets easier every time because they know you, and they know what you do.” Ryan went on to say that for local farmers like himself, working with the same loan officer every time has benefits. “When you go back for another loan, you’re already light years ahead of where you’d be if you were working with a commercial bank, where you may not talk to the same person every time.”

A Growing Commitment to Give Back

With Berry Farms and Berry Brother’s Farms firmly established, Ryan was finally living out his childhood dream. But his story doesn’t stop there. In 2021, Madison Bagwell, who serves on Plains Land Bank’s nominating committee, called Ryan to ask if he would be willing to be on the ballot for Board Member. Ryan had few humble reservations about it at first, but he and Lauren decided to go ahead with it.

Now, Ryan serves on the Plains Land Bank Board of Directors, working to ensure the bank’s safety and soundness. “The board has a good mix of people, background wise, accounting wise, stuff like that, to make sure that things are going according to the plan. And the plan is incredibly complex.”

Ryan devotes his time and energy to Board Member duties, but it all circles back to why he decided to serve in the first place. “Because of what the Plains Land Bank has done for us, I thought it was a no-brainer to put my name in and at least give it a shot.”

Every dream starts somewhere. For Ryan, it started with an open-cab tractor ride on his grandpa’s farm. Through resilience, hard work, and the timely support of the community, Ryan found a way to start a successful farming operation. The thing is, that is what Plains Land Bank is all about. From Board Members like Ryan to stockholders, each person plays a part.

Ryan echoed the heart of the entire Plains Land Bank community when he said, “I just hope it continues to be the first place that people think of when they need a farm or ranch loan or to improve their farm or build something..that’s been passed on to them or start something new.

Dreams need a place to grow. And in the Panhandle of Texas, we hope yours grow with your local Plains Land Bank community.

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