Betting the Farm:
Kylie Veldman leans on tough farm lessons to achieve her dream
Growing up on a cattle farm in Michigan’s rural Thumb area, Kylie Veldman had two long-term goals after graduating high school in 2016: get a college education and figure out how to pay for it.
As the only daughter of a machine repairman and a receptionist, Veldman was the first in her immediate family to achieve precisely that when she graduated with a BBA from Walsh College in spring 2022.
Setting these goals, however, was one thing. Realizing them was quite another. “There were so many times I just wanted to quit, where I’d be on my bedroom floor crying because I didn’t know how I was going to pay for school,” says Veldman, whose parents earned too much for her to qualify for aid. “But somehow, I just kept going.”
As a little girl, Veldman had plenty of training in pushing through difficulties. She and her brother grew up raising 30 head of cattle and other livestock in the 2,000-person farming community of Yale, Michigan.
As kids, they were responsible for daily chores like hauling hay and grain, filling water tubs, and changing the bedding in stall areas.
They were also active in 4-H, through which Veldman showed lambs and pigs at the summer fair.
It turned out that working with animals laid the groundwork for Veldman’s future resilience. “You just went in the ring, put on a face, and if your animal acted up, you had to go with it,” she says.
So, despite the odds against her, Veldman plunged into higher education, first earning two associates in general business and accounting at her local community college, then casting her net wider to Walsh to earn her bachelor’s degree in marketing.
Each semester, it was hit or miss making ends meet, says Veldman, who worked full time as a manager at a local grocery store to pay for tuition and books. “Every penny would go out the door to pay for college; it was so stressful,” she says.
As Veldman slowly chipped away at her dream, she watched friends graduating and moving on, which took a toll on her spirits. But as time went on, good things began happening. After starting at Walsh, Veldman’s tuition bill was too high to cover on her own. Then, “like a saving grace,” she received a Leadership Award Scholarship, which covered $1,000 of her tuition.
With the award, she could cut back her working hours and focus more on her studies.
“I got some peace of mind with that scholarship; it was such a relief,” recalls Veldman. Another positive was that classes went entirely virtual in 2020, saving Veldman from the one-hour commute each way to Troy. And though she says that the past six years have been a grind, there’s not a thing that she would do differently. “I learned that no matter how hard it gets, I can get through it, taking things one step at a time,” she says.
With her newly minted degree in hand, Veldman hopes to work in the agricultural sector, either in animal nutrition or for United Producers Inc., a beef marketing company located in nearby Cass City.
Now when she thinks of friends and high school classmates who had seemingly passed her by a few years ago, she says she knows better.
“We all have all kinds of resilience,” she says. “Resilience is getting where [you] need to go, … and there are a million ways of getting it done.”