Whether she’s acing another test or elbow deep in tractor grease, Eastern Kentucky University Spring 2017 graduate Brooke Darnell knows the value of hard work.
The Cynthiana native, who graduated summa cum laude with a 3.93 GPA, will certainly be remembered by her professors and peers. Dr. Ed Fredrickson, professor in the Department of Agriculture, said Darnell’s “attitude and dedication prove she has what it takes to be successful in this field.”
When she’s not in the classroom or attending meetings, Darnell can be found on her 9,300-pound Super Farm pulling tractor, which she calls “Red Scorpion.” Darnell is a not only a champion driver in the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League, but also helps builds her own tractors.
While tractor pulls may seem foreign to those from urban areas, they are wildly popular in rural communities. Fans from miles away pay to see regular farm tractors modified with performance engines and equipped with massive amounts of horsepower and torque. A sled with 50,000 pounds is then hitched to the back of the tractor. The sled is designed so that the weight gradually moves from the back of the sled to the front, making the weight progressively harder to pull. The tractor to make it the farthest down the track wins.
Darnell began her own tractor pulling career four years ago when was 19, but the sport was a family tradition long before that. Her dad has been pulling for 24 years, and her brother for eight, while her mother can always be found in the stands cheering on her family.
Though Darnell always enjoyed watching alongside her mother, nothing quite compares to being part of the action. “I love getting to sit on the seat and being able to feel the power of the machine.”
Behind the action, however, is a lot of dirty work, which never bothered Darnell. “I had to make a deal with my dad. If I got to play, have fun, and pull ‘Red,’ then I had to learn to work on her too,” she explained. “I made this deal, and the rest is history.”
Darnell explained that she has acquired many life lessons from tractor-pulling. “I have learned that not everything will go your way. I have learned to be patient. I have learned what might work really well for my brother’s tractor might kill mine. Not everything works the same.” As a future teacher, she plans to apply those lessons in her classroom.
An agricultural education major, Darnell hopes to teach high school agriculture classes and serve as an FFA adviser. She already has multiple interviews lined up this summer for teaching positions.
Agriculture has always been a major part of Darnell’s life. Farming has been her family’s way of life for the past six generations, and she has lived on the same farm since she was 9 months old. Her family proudly boasts a crop of corn, soybean, tobacco, hay, and cattle spread over 236 acres.
In high school, Darnell was active in Future Farmers of America (FFA), where she served in various leadership roles. She was also the 2012-13 Northern Kentucky regional reporter, as well as a state officer candidate.
“I think this prepared me for college and my future career because it let me make networking from all around,” Darnell said. “It put me in front of a lot of people that I didn’t know and allowed me the opportunity to be a leader.”
Darnell was involved in several organizations at EKU, including its Agriculture Club, Delta Tau Alpha Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Society of Leadership and Achievement Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She is also a member of Harrison County FFA Alumni and the Harrison County Young Farmers Association.
As Darnell’s time at Eastern came to a close, she reflected on the many opportunities the agriculture department afforded her.
“It has let me experience the freedom and the real world while still being in the safety of a classroom,” she said. “You have people that are there to always help you out and want to make the best of every situation. I felt at home with the agriculture department.”
Darnell hopes that one day she will have the same impact on her students. “I want each of my students to leave the classroom knowing one thing about agriculture they didn’t know before, that not only can they follow their dreams, but they are the future.”