My great grandfather Ole bought the family farm in 1872 which means in about six years there will be a part of the farm that has been in the same family for 150 years.
I don’t believe my great-grandfather was thinking 150 years into the future, but merely trying to own a place where he could provide for his family when he bought that piece of ground.
Ole died a few years after buying the farm, leaving his wife to raise their children. From family history, I have been told my great-grandmother not only worked the farm, but required her children to work as well to keep the farm going.
One of those children was my grandfather, a man I never met because he died about five years before I was born.
Family history says my grandfather was a very ambitious man who enjoyed buying and occasionally selling land. His three sons all ended up owning their own farm land before he died suddenly.
My dad remembered hearing his father was ill and needed to go to hospital when my dad was cultivating corn. He told me of the spot where he parked the tractor and cultivator, headed for the hospital, but my grandfather died the next day.
My dad said after the funeral he started the engine on the tractor and resumed cultivating. That was in 1942.
My earliest memories of this farm would be during the mid-1950s. My two uncles were busy farming and expanding the farm. My dad had his own farm about two miles away and operated independently from his brothers.
My two uncles farmed with the attitude of bigger is better, while my dad was more measured in his approach to farming. Livestock was a big part of all the brothers’ farms.
So with our farm in the fifth generation of farmers now in charge (I was number four), what I find interesting is that each generation had its own way of running a farm.
Information about my great-grandmother is sketchy, but I believe she and her children farmed at just above a subsistence level.
My grandfather was a promoter and a wheeler-dealer and from the family stories I have heard he was always a man who was in a hurry.
My two uncles, who liked the idea of big and bigger, never married and never left the farm. That was in contrast to the previous generations where families of five to seven children were common.
Fortunately, my dad decided to marry the new school teacher who arrived in town from across the state line in Minnesota.
My dad enjoyed farming, but also enjoyed seeing the world, leaving the farm to visit Australia, Europe and was one of the first tourists to visit China.
He enjoyed the big side of farming, but had a healthy respect for debt so big for the sake of big was not part of his decision-making.
Then it was my turn to own the family farm.
I was the first generation to buy farm ground since my grandfather, but without the wheeler-dealer attitude, and more like my dad’s approach to debt.
I avoided new farm equipment, preferred using the tractors and equipment that were already here from my dad and uncle’s farms. If I bought a piece of machinery, it was used because I was cheap. And it was used until there was not much left.
My son farms with the intensity of my dad. He is a bigger risk taker than I am, but retains a healthy respect for debt, realizing that whatever happens, it has to be paid for.
There you have five generations of farmers, each farming the same piece of ground, but using their own methods and approach of farming and life.
Thanks to my great-grandfather and great-grandmother for taking a chance in 1872 on a piece of farmland. If they only knew.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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