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John plays his banjo as his grandchildren, Addison, 8, and Caidean, 2, play and dance around him on the porch of his home.

A rare breed

story by Zac Popik

"Not everyone can be a farmer," says 57-year-old John Bowman. "It takes a special breed." John works a 75-acre farm high above Morehead on almost hidden land where horses, cattle and dogs roam free. He grows and harvests corn and tobacco. But the calling he loves may be winding down. After battling against back issues, a stroke and Lyme disease, John's health has affected his ability to work. As his body becomes weaker while working an understaffed farm, John is facing the reality that this season might be his last. He comes from three generations of farmers, beginning with his great-grandfather. "We've farmed since we've come over from Scotland." says his only son, Jonathan, 26. Jonathan works at the Kentucky Pawn and Gun shop in Morehead. Concerned about the high cost of maintaining a farm and his waning interest in the occupation, Jonathan decided he didn't want to continue in his father's footsteps. Instead he has followed an interest in firearms. "We need to find another way to keep taxes paid," he says. With tobacco season slowing down and the need to wait for his corn to dry, John turns to the lucrative business of logging to stay financially afloat. Michael Knipp, 26, was hired by John six-months ago to help maintain the farm, as well as help log Wide Oak, Chestnut and Black Oak for timber. Michael likes working for John. "He's fun and easy to get along with. He's really understanding." Once finished with farming, John plans to live the simple life: hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. He believes farming is not for everyone, but only for someone, like himself, who truly loves the life. "If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing." John says.  


John Bowman's 8-year-old grandson, Caidean, hugs him while waiting in a line at a Walmart Pharmacy in Rowan County.


John Bowman eats a bologna sandwich at the dining room table in his home before heading out to pick up coal.


John Bowman drives on a early morning to the location of his tractors to begin logging for the day.


Jonathan Bowman hands his father, John Bowman, a shotgun to check out at the Kentucky Pawn and Gun shop in Rowan County.


John Bowman, 57, checks the moisture of his corn on one of patches. The corn he grows must meet a mositure level of 13 - 15 before being harvested.


John Bowman balances on the side his as he prepares to lift the tool box out with his tractor. Dealing with back issues, lyme disease and a stroke, his health issues have left John feeling weaker as he continues to do his daily farm work.


A stump splintered after being cut down by John's employee, Micael Knipp. Logging is a way for John to stay finacially afloat as the tobacco and corn season slow down.


Addison, 8, taunts her cousin, Caidean, 2, as he drives past her in a princess theme toy car in their grandfather's backyard.


John Bowman and his grandson,Caidean ride off on a lawnmower after spending the afternoon running errands.

2 of 79 stories