CAMANCHE, Iowa — Starting any operation means facing challenges and making sacrifices, but it has been a particularly eventful road for Elisha and Paul McCoy.
In 2022, the couple was looking for a new direction and Paul had just been offered a job in Montana. That same week, their friend called and said he was looking to sell his farm and thought they would be interested in it.
The offers came within 24 hours of each other. Thirty-six hours later, Paul was involved in an accident with a drunk driver.
They chose to stay and farm.
“It wasn’t exactly the perfect timing, but it was the perfect situation,” Elisha said.
Challenges are nothing new to Elisha, who spent 10 years as an intelligence operations specialist and sensor operator for MQ9 Reapers (UAVs) for the Air National Guard, spending time in Des Moines and Kansas. She said she flew over 100 combat mission sorties during her time in the service.
“You have to be able to plan and stick to the plan,” she said.
In December 2022, she earned her master’s degree as a physician’s assistant. She and Paul both work in the nearby emergency department. Paul also volunteers on the local fire department.
“We work 12-hour shifts, two weekends a month and every other holiday,” she said. “Then trying to balance this paperwork and getting the business started — it’s a massive balance of constantly looking at our calendar and figuring out when to try and manage all we have to do.”
The pair moved on to their new land last May and now, in addition to those full-time jobs, the eastern Iowa couple pasture-boards 24 horses, including two of their own. They have been hard at work expanding their operation to include more hay acres and improving their land with conservation tactics and creating more trail routes for their boarders.
Elisha credits Paul with leading them through the initial few months of their farm ownership as it coincided with the final classes of her master’s program, particularly as he dealt with severe back and shoulder injuries from the accident.
“We took on a farm where I couldn’t raise my right arm above 90 degrees and I couldn’t hardly bend down because of my back injury,” Paul said. “It definitely wasn’t the perfect timing, but it was the perfect opportunity. A lot of the work took a while, since I was a little slower, but we bet on ourselves and pulled the trigger.”
Between the rehab and work on improving the farm, there have been sacrifices made, like additional shifts at work. Now that the pair is more than a year into their operation, they expect to find a little more time for themselves on the farm.
“It’s meant no hunting or things like that,” Paul said. “We have the food plots out and the deer were very happy last year. We also released over 100 quail at this point. Hopefully we can get out and do something fun also.”
With their location, they have access to the Wapsipinicon River, so maintaining the land by the river is crucial for providing quality riding experiences. Elisha said much of the paychecks they bring in from their off-farm jobs goes toward sustaining their operation, improving fence lines and updating equipment.
“It’s more off-road so the horses can experience going over logs and creeks and all the true pioneer-type of horseback riding that a lot of riders love,” Elisha said. “We are hoping for a reputation that shows we care about horses and we want everyone to be safe.”
With the challenges, Paul and Elisha are grateful for the help they’ve received in the community.
“It’s a different experience when you feel you are always the one having to ask and feeling humbled people will share time, knowledge and equipment,” Paul says. “We try to offer what we can whether that’s gift certificates or having people come over and trail ride. It’s definitely a community that works together. Nobody can do it on their own.”