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Willits can still pick ’em

By Staff | Nov 2, 2012

By ANDREW POTTER

apotter@timesrepublican.com

UNION – When Levi Willits was 20 years old, his dad died and he took over the family farm in the Bangor area of northcentral Marshall County.

70 years later he’s still active in farming and operates a combine.

Willits retired as a full-time farmer when he was 65, but still helps out his son, Ray Willits, and climbed into a combine on Oct. 19 to help with harvest in a field just north of Union.

“I didn’t figure I would do it for this long,” Levi Willits said. “I’m just happy to be able to do it.”

He said operating a combine comes natural to him.

“Just push a few buttons and keep it on the row,” he said. “I enjoy it.”

His ability to get around amazes his family and friends, including his son.

“He can climb right up in the combine and run it,” Ray Willits said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Most of the work Levi Willits does on the farm is running errands as he is affectionately known as the “go-for” guy. He’ll go for parts or pick up people during busy times on the farm. Willits credits his genetics for his ability to be on the move at 90.

“My mother lived to be 100,” he said. “I’ve got a pretty good heritage.”

Levi and his first wife, Anna Lea, had four children. She died in 1989 after 45 years of marriage. He’s been married to his second wife, Ramona, for 22 years.

Willits, who has lived in the same one-mile area his entire life – aside from winters in Arizona – has seen numerous changes in agriculture through the years and remembers picking corn by hand. He said they could hand pick 100 bushels of corn a day and now combines can harvest thousands of bushels an hour.

He was also one of the first leaders in no-till farming in the 1970s. Ray Willits said his dad was a “pioneer in conservation.”

“No-till has been one of the best changes that I’ve done,” Levi Willits said. “It saved a ton of soil.”

His mind and body are still sharp, though he feels this could be his last harvest where he’ll be able to operate a combine. He has no regrets about being in farming and living off the land.

“It’s been a good life,” Willits said.

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