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article number 497
article date 10-27-2015
copyright 2015 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Faces On Our Farms, 1976, Part 1: A Variety of Farm People

From the USDA 1976 Yearbook of Agriculture.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pictures are placed after the text which refers to the picture.

* * *

With the do-it-yourself attitude commonplace among farmers everywhere, Leroy “Tilly” Tillotson attaches a sideboard extension to the top of his truck, enabling him to haul additional bushels of wheat to the grain elevator 18 miles away in Farnam, Nebraska.

Photo by Bill Marr.

The great strength of America’s agriculture is her people. They comprise less than five percent of our population.

The average farm worker (owner, family help and hired help) produces enough to feed and clothe himself and 56 other persons—an increase of 3 1/2 times the 15 people in 1950. This potent productivity is unmatched anywhere in today’s world, and unmatched in history.

The people on our land represent many nationalities, and enterprises: there are corn and hog farmers, cattlemen, poultry raisers, citrus growers, organic farmers, and dozens of other kinds.

Although every farm or ranch is unique and differs from its neighbors, rural Americans possess many similar characteristics. One is willingness to share their best farming ideas with other farmers.

Most farmers are regarded as conservative minded, yet the nature of their business compels them to take high risks . . . they are gamblers, in a sense, though most rebel at being called such. Conservative on the one hand, farmers nevertheless are innovative and adaptive to new farming techniques. They seem to thrive on hard work, and have a profound love—a reverence—for the land they till.

Fortunately for America, farming and ranching still attract young people such as this young man at the Western Junior Livestock Show in Rapid City, South Dakota. They learn by doing—raising a critter or a crop the best way they know how, then selling it for the best price they can get. That’s the business of farming.

Photo by Lowell Georgia.

The J. Brewer Bottorffs, lifelong farmers, have been married more than 50 years. Family portraits hang in the living room of their farm home near St. James, Missouri. Farming is a family business, with man, wife, and children sharing the daily work, the income, the joys, the successes and disappointments.

Photo by Bill Marr.

Nearly everyone—of every age—is caught up in excitement of activities at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus.

Photo by Gordon Baer.

Statistics show that the average age of today’s farmer is about 50. Recently young people have begun to return to the farm, and enrollments in agricultural colleges have climbed dramatically (22.5 percent from 1972 to 1974) as farm-reared and non-farm youth are attracted to farming’s future and the task of feeding the world.

Agriculture offers new opportunities and attractions for young people that didn’t exist even five years ago, and though it isn’t easy to get started in farming, it never has been.

A willingness to share an idea that works, and an eagerness to learn, are farm traits that boost food output. This group soaks up facts and figures about a new hog production setup, during a young farmers’ tour in the Midwest.

Photo by Angus McDougall.

Mr. and Mrs. Luis Avila grow fruit and vegetables and sell them at this roadside stand in Chimayo, New Mexico, thus eliminating the “middleman’s” margin. Farmers get only about 40 cents of the consumer’s food dollar.

Photo by John Running.

After a day of working in the lettuce fields, Mexican farm workers are bused back to the Mexican border at Calexico, California. Fewer farm hands and migrant workers are needed as agriculture becomes more mechanized. There are an estimated 209,000 migratory farm workers in the U.S.

Photo by Charles O’Rear.

Some farmers, such as John Elmore, are large operators. He has a radio-equipped car so he can keep in touch with his foremen in the Imperial Valley of southern California. Nationwide, nine of every 10 farms are family-sized units using family labor and occasional hired help.

Photo by Charles O’Rear.

Higher production costs and a roller coaster, up-and-down hog market are concerns of Dan Kostelak (left) and his brother, Frank. While prices of farm products fluctuate, most other prices—including the ones farmers pay—go up and stay up.

Photo by Bill Marr.

As flames swept through their dairy barn completely destroying the building, milking equipment, and feed, Ronald and Jane Nipple were faced with a tough decision.

Photo by Fred Witte.

Their fire insurance wasn’t adequate to cover the loss. Should they give up farm life and sell out? Neighbors encouraged them to stay on, offering more than words—they offered to rebuild the barn.

Photo by Fred Witte.

On several consecutive Saturdays, a dozen or more neighborhood men showed up with hammers, nails, saws, and levels, and the new 40 x 140-foot barn began to take shape . . . built from oak lumber grown on the Nipples’ own farm.

Photo by Fred Witte.

The women served a hearty, noon-time meal on the lawn, and carted hot coffee to the building site. There was fun and fellowship—and a barn got built. The Nipples expressed their sentiments in a thank-you note that concluded, “We have prospered in knowing and having such wonderful rural neighbors. God bless them.” Such acts have built rural America.

Photo by Fred Witte.

The auctioneer’s banter at a Mississippi sales barn amuses the crowd. But the farmer who sells his cattle sees a whole year’s work sold in two minutes——for what a buyer will pay that particular day.

Photo by David Warren.

Everyone should take time now and then just to relax and be together, especially if it’s a fall day in Virginia. Ann Heizer and her daughter Carol, 8, who live on a dairy farm, know that kings, potentates and millionaires can’t buy anything that will equal the splendor of October colors on the Virginia hills.

Photo by Betsy Frampton.

Jeff Stringer, of Hutchinson, Kansas, has helped his uncle, Ralph Hansen, of Kingfisher, Oklahoma, with the wheat harvest the past several summers. Some are bumper harvests, some don’t do much more than get the seed back. It’s like life. “It all evens out,” Hansen explained philosophically to his nephew.

Photo by Bill Marr.

Some of the varied faces of American agriculture a migrant worker, a rancher, an organic farmer, a wheat grower, a livestockman, a part-time farmer . . . all, and others, are shown here, and each has a role in America’s agricultural abundance.

Ken Johnston, Ohio; Jim Lancaster, Oklahoma;
Hilda Newland, Maryland; Fred Shaw, Mississippi;
Sam Shuey, Ohio; Charles Shutes, Arkansas;
Brenda Wright, Vermont; Victor Sease, California;
Chuck Grimes, Oklahoma; Inger Sessions, New Jersey;
Leslie May, Indiana; John Reese, Ohio;
Lovenia Patrick, Mississippi; Ben Wilcox, Maine;
Stan Otani, Hawaii; Dick Roberts, Alaska.

Gerry Schultheis, 18, and his grandfather, Jacob F. Schultheis, 77, rest while a combine is repaired in eastern Washington. The art and fine points of farming are passed from generation to generation.

Photo by Doug Wilson.

Ken Walker of Faribault, Minnesota, left, was active in 4-H and the Future Farmers of America in high school but then he tried truck driving. In a couple of years, he was back to take over the farm his father, Dan, has been working for 25 years.

Photo by Don Breneman.

Even in Biblical times, the question of keeping the farm in the family was a prime concern.
- Who will get the farm when the parents die?
- What with the hard work and all, who will want the farm when that time comes?
- Which child will borrow to buy out the interests of the other survivors?

There are other questions:
- Will inheritance taxes make it possible to keep the same name on the barn another generation?
- What about incorporation?
- And, after all, is the farm large enough to continue to compete successfully?

There’s a lot to talk over. Grandfather wants to pass on wisdom, a hard-earned commodity that’s never obsolete. A risk of the father—a big investment in land or machinery, for instance—affects the future of his children. Should the risk be taken? They need to talk it out together.

Barbara and Greg Nelson live in a mobile home on a farm near Delavan, Illinois. Greg, like many young people entering farming, has a college degree.

Photo by William Kuykendall.

Louise Swanson grew up on a tractor seat and can handle a 4-bottom plow with ease in the loamy soil of southern Minnesota.

Photo by Don Breneman.

A senior at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, she is studying home economics.

Photo by Don Breneman.
Photo by Don Breneman.
Photo by Don Breneman.

Her campus life is typical of students in her curriculum with one notable exception. During the Spring planting and Fall harvesting seasons, Louise goes home at least once and often twice a week, to help with field work on the family farm.

Photo by Don Breneman.

Her father, Walter Swanson, farms 800 acres of corn, rye, and oats, and raises hogs and Shorthorn cattle near Hastings, Minnesota. He has four daughters and one son, plus two foster children. During the busy seasons, everyone pitches in to get field work completed as quickly as possible, and this is when Louise trades her classroom chair for a tractor seat.

Photo by Don Breneman.

Earl Booms, 43, is a dairy and grain farmer in Huron County, Michigan. He owns 250 acres, rents 300, and milks 60 cows. Fifteen years ago, 60-cow dairy herds were few and far between. Today they are common as herds continue to increase in size.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

In 1968, about 200 Russian immigrants established a village called Nikolaevsk on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. They wear colorful clothing and call themselves “Old Believers.” They became U.S. citizens last year.

Photo by Charles O’Rear.

Racing through a cornfield like a halfback running for the end zone, young Tracy Shutes, of near El Dorado, Arkansas, exemplifies the thoughts of most Americans: the farm is a great place to live.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

For the first time in decades, the migration from the land into our nation’s cities has ceased. In fact, the trend has suddenly and dramatically reversed itself. Today, more and more people are moving to the suburbs, small towns, rural communities, and “back to the land.”

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