Grace HammerBy: Anne Maxwell
When Grace Hammer earned her agribusiness degree from Kansas State University in 2017, she knew her ultimate goal was to live and work in western Kansas.
Four years later, the young professional can’t believe it all came true – in such a short amount of time. Hammer knows full well the economic reality of rural areas, and how difficult it can be at times to secure a job with the salary and benefits you’re looking for. She says the fact that she was able to put all the pieces of her plan together in four years is still a stunning turn of events.
And, only possible because of Rural & Remote.
“I always knew I wanted to be back here,” she says of the ranch she lives on with family in Wallace County. “I just didn’t know I’d have the opportunity to work remotely.”
Initially after graduation, Hammer had worked for a grain company and later for a start-up commodity advisory business. Neither experiences offered her the location or the flexibility she was hoping for.
Then, having seen an ad for Rural & Remote on social media, she thought she’d give the training a try in early 2020. Not long after completing the remote work training, Hammer secured an internship with High Plains Food Coop out of nearby Atwood.
“I did that all online from my house,” she said of the valuable experience that gave her a chance to put her remote skills to work. “I helped local producers from western Kansas and eastern Colorado get their locally grown food delivered to customers. During the pandemic, it was so great to have the food delivered right to their front door.”
That experience gave her an initial look at remote work, which Hammer notes is not just about kicking back from a home office in one’s pajamas.
“Working remotely is more challenging than I thought it would be,” she said. “There are a lot of distractions that go on. But there were some great people I had met through my Rural & Remote training that I was able to reach out to and get suggestions from. It’s all about learning how to work from home and using different strategies as well as software programs to be as productive as possible.”
Her commitment to the internship paid off as Hammer was soon able to secure a full-time job as a grain merchandiser with The Anderson Inc. – a company headquartered out of Ohio with offices in Loveland, Colo., and Kansas City, Mo. Her position finds her working with producers throughout the region and “buying anything out of a bag or bin,” and then providing the logistics to get that grain to an end user, such as an ethanol plant or hog feed yard.
She couldn’t be happier with the way her remote work experience has now dovetailed with her passion for helping producers and furthering the products of the High Plains.
“It has given me the opportunity to be a part of western Kansas,” she said from her home in Wallace County. “I enjoy being able to provide food and fuel, and clothing throughout all of the United States. It’s so cool to be able to work at where I’m from, be in agriculture, and to be able to live somewhere I enjoy and have the lower cost of living.”
For this young professional, it’s not enough to live and work in the place she calls home. Hammer also stays connected and engaged in the community through various volunteer activities.
“I am on the Sunflower District Extension Council comprised of counties in the area that helps make decisions for our local extension and 4-H programs,” she said. “I like being able to give back to an organization that taught me a lot of life skills while I was involved for 12 years. I’m also involved with various missions through my local church.”
In addition to having the opportunity to give back, Hammer also loves the freedom and flexibility her new gig has provided, allowing her to work from different places when she’s on the road.
Regardless of where her road leads, Hammer said she remains pleased with the decision to take the training with Rural & Remote.
“The class was only a month long, but I gained so much knowledge from it,” she said. “Even if you don’t end up taking a remote job, there are so many skills you can utilize professionally that will help you be more productive and a better employee.”
But if others do happen to follow her path home to rural Kansas and live out their dream in the wide-open spaces, all the better.
“There are so many benefits to working remotely,” she said. “I hope other western Kansas people take advantage of the opportunity. This is what keeps our communities vibrant.”