Courtney Hampton and Sonna Hoke: The Family That Farms Together

A love of agriculture bridges the gap between two women from different generations.
Courtney Hampton and Sonna Hoke
Left to right: Courtney Hampton and Sonna Hoke work together to help their farm in Clinton, Illinois, prosper.
Not many people can say they’ve gotten to know their grandparents-in-law on a professional level, but that’s Courtney Hampton’s reality. Courtney, a grain originator, lives with her husband, Andrew, in Clinton, Illinois. Andrew is the grandson of Sonna Hoke and her husband, Ed, who run a farm outside of Clinton where they primarily grow corn and soybeans. In preparation for passing the farm to the next generation, Sonna and Ed have welcomed Courtney’s and Andrew’s help with farming operations over the past few years.

“Ed’s got an extra set of hands now, so I don’t have to go out and do as much physical work,” Sonna says. “We’re both getting to the point where everything we do outside is more strenuous on our bodies, so we appreciate the grandkids who can help out.”

Education Across Generations

While Sonna and Courtney may have grown up in different times, they still learned the ropes of farm life through a sound education. Sonna got hands-on experience early on in her childhood by helping her father in the field and at harvest. During high school, Ed began helping Sonna’s father on his farm before he and Sonna got married. Fifty-five years later, the two are still farming together.

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“I pay a lot of the bills and do a lot of the bookkeeping for the farm,” Sonna says. “That’s one way I can help keep things up when the guys are busy in the field.”

Courtney’s farming history comes from raising livestock and a love of showing cattle during her youth. She earned her associate degrees in both grain merchandising and agribusiness management from Parkland College in Champaign, and her bachelor’s degree online in technical business and management, with an emphasis in sales and marketing. She is a strong proponent for ag education.

She started her own ag career as an accounting clerk for a local grain elevator, and has since advanced to grain originator. She also assists on the Hokes’ farm by driving tractors and feeding livestock.

The Evolving Role of Women and Mentors

A lot has changed since Sonna began working in agriculture, including the roles women play in the industry.

“I grew up in a time when the women in our neighborhood all worked alongside the men,” she says. “It seems like the women who are in agriculture now are working in different areas.”

Sonna says Courtney, who has used her education to supplement her farming background and acquire the position she has today, is an example of this phenomenon. While Courtney looks to Sonna and Ed as resources and mentors for corn and soybean farming, she strives to set a good example for younger women in the industry as well.

“My little sister really tries to keep up with what I’m doing. She’s going to school for grain merchandising like I am,” Courtney says. “She’s the reason I try to better myself, because I know she pays attention to what I’m doing.”

A Common History

Sonna and Courtney have a bond that is rooted in their appreciation for the work and benefits agriculture offers.

“To be honest, I can’t think of a better return on investment than getting a degree in agriculture and then jumping into a career. Even with a general ag business management degree, there are so many opportunities out there.”

Courtney Hampton

“I always enjoyed being outside when I was growing up,” Sonna says. “That’s why I’d go out and work in the barn with my dad.”

Courtney loves that her job enables her to be a self-proclaimed “social butterfly” and interact with farmers to develop strong relationships. After her upbringing in and around agriculture, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s the way of life—that’s how I was raised, that’s how my husband was raised, and it’s something important to us,” Courtney says. “We couldn’t think of anything we’d like to do better than agriculture and farming.”