The farm where we live is where my grandparents started their farming careers as a young married couple in the 1930s. My grandmother was born and raised in this farming community, in fact, just a few miles south of where she settled with my grandfather. Her parents were farmers in Iowa and their parents were farmers, and I’m pretty sure the ancestors who migrated to the U.S. in the early 1800s were farmers.
My grandfather was born in Germany in 1913 and emigrated to the U.S. as a young boy. My German great-grandfather and great-grandmother dreamed of owning land and set out to do so after arriving in Iowa where my great-grandfather’s brother had already settled.
Farming was in their blood and was their livelihood. Innovations in farm machinery and tools helped make the occupation more efficient, more productive, and safer year after year. But with innovation came more waste, the reliance on fuel, and the desire for big everything. Bigger was better. My grandparents started with a few horses to help plant their seeds, harvest and plow the fields. By the time they retired, they had three to four tractors and large implements that took the place of 100 horses. My grandparents worked together on the farm growing corn, soybeans, oats, hay, and a garden that fed six every year. They also raised cattle, pigs, chickens, and sheep. They used everything, from the lard of the animal to the wool, leaving little to waste. The Depression really made people of that era create ways to save and utilize everything again and again. Sometimes I think our generation needs that kind of low to learn how to really survive.
My grandparents farmed alone until 1970 when my father decided to return to Iowa to start farming with his Japanese bride. While growing up, my parents worked hard for every penny earned, much like the generation before them. My parents started out farming with my grandparents, renting some land to farm, selling insurance on the side, and raising A LOT of pigs just to make ends meet. My dad was always outside working, so much in fact that I rarely saw him. As my grandfather inched toward retirement in the late 1970s, they decided to incorporate their farms into one business in 1979, naming it Center View Farms Co.
Today, Center View Farms Co. still exists. They were one of the farms that made it through the Farm Crisis in the 1980s with high inflation and low prices. My grandfather was a great farmer, as is my dad, and they played their cards right. While growing up as a farm girl, farming just seemed like a lot of hard work with little benefit. Farmers raped the soils to get as much as they could out of every acre and there was little incentive to care for the land or even sustain it. Animals were raised in large confinement lots and buildings to help supply the demand for cheap food. The huge supermarkets were taking over the world. And I never understood where all the food that my parents grew went. To me, this style of farming was of little interest and I disagreed with the direction in which it was moving. But many things turned around for farmers in the new millennium and has made farming a more bright, interesting and lucrative career. Many programs made available by the federal government have created incentives for farmers to become better stewards of the land and bring the soils back to their healthy balance. Consumers are demanding more “natural” foods that are “farm fresh”, “cage-free”, “grass fed”, “antibiotic-free”, “preservative-free”, and organic. Yay America! Wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, and biofuels are slowly changing our dependence on the non-renewable resources and unstable world governments. And the word “sustainability” is now a household term! Farming is enticing and very exciting now!
My boyfriend, Johnny and I work for Center View Farms. We are here to learn, experience and make a living from farming. Currently, Center View Farms grows around 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa hay. There are 31 sheep, one of my grandfather’s hobbies, and Johnny and I are in charge of their well-being. We want to be as good of shepherds as my grandfather once was.
The future of Center View Farms Co. is on our shoulders. This is my blog to share with you the ups, the downs, the twists and turns, and the changes that will happen to our farming operation. As my dad always reminds me about farming…..”the one thing that stays constant is change.”