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KAREN SCHWALLER

By Staff | Dec 30, 2016

This past fall my view of harvest changed from being the person who brings out a hot meal each night, to not only doing that, but driving the grain cart as well.

My view from the tractor cab also gave me a new perspective on the work and life of a farmer and his family, even though I have spent my life on the farm.

My husband started out humbly in his vocation-beginning as a hired man at the ripe old age of 14. He lived in town at the time, coming to work each day on his moped. Eventually he worked up to buying his first pickup truck.

As a high school junior he moved out to the farm where he would (years later) bring his new bride and raise his children. There, he instilled the love of the land and livestock in all of his children – something that gave him more pride than his chest could hold.

But it took time. He started out in the 1980s, of all times, with a few hogs and a dream. With no farm land to raise feed for them, he bought every kernel of corn that went into them during a scary time in ag history.

It was careful livestock and financial management that moved him forward far enough to buy a skid loader. What a relief to pitch the pitch fork.

When he bought his first tractor – a Farmall Super M – it was a day to celebrate. That followed with the purchase of a 190 Allis Chalmers and a few small, well-used implements to groom and plant the first quarter of land he was able to acquire in the early 1990s.

He worked seven days a week, including full time factory work in town for five years and farming part time to realize his “someday” dream of farming full time.

He never lost sight of his dream. It was something to witness that kind of fierce tenacity and drive.

As opportunities arose and newer equipment replaced the old, some of the older machines took a home in the grove. It’s hard to get rid of some pieces of machinery – like his first combine. Someone once asked him what he used for a combine, and when he said it was a ’95 John Deere, they said, “Oh, a 9500.” He said, “Nope, a ’95.”

Their looks of surprise were usually pretty amusing. No one farmed with those anymore.

When a traveling junk dealer gazed upon it once and came to buy it, my husband could not part with it. The combine was his earliest memory of prosperity, and he couldn’t sell it to a junk dealer.

It was hydrostatic, awesome, and it did everything he needed done. And there was a time when that combine was the next big thing for him and our children.

There were financial pitfalls and heartaches on the way to farming full time, including the need to liquidate a sow herd once, and the farm crisis of 1998, which almost stole his dream from him. I would see him cry when he opened the hog check. Those were hard days.

But this fall as I drove the tractor and grain cart down the field to meet my husband in the combine, I watched as one of our loaded semis headed down the road. He had purchased this one from a man he once worked for, and then with. I thought about all of the work and heartache he endured in all those years to get where he is today.

From a rear-view mirror’s perspective, a dream is never truly lost until you stop working toward it, no matter what obstacles stand in the way. He was not willing to give up.

But that’s the way farmers are. They have invested too much blood, sweat and tears – if not money they don’t have – and time spent dreaming and planning.

I watched as our sons harvested a field across the road from where we were working one day, and thought about the dream that was for my husband and for our sons. It meant a lifetime of working toward that goal for all of them. Not every farm family can accomplish that.

For the 2 percent of the population who make farming their life’s work, it has been, more times than not, quite a scratch-filled climb to the top.

But it makes the view from there all the sweeter. That is, if you can see it through the blood, sweat and, yes, the tears.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net and at www.karenschwaller.com.

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