Century farms harvest generations of tradition
There was a time in American history, and it really was not that long ago, when most Americans were farmers.
Now, according to a Duke University study, only about one in 100 Americans can claim that title. The family farm, once the backbone of America, is slowly fading into history.
But for four area families, farming—and the family land that goes back more than 100 years—is in the blood and not a tie to be severed soon.
Generation after generation, they continue to grow and raise our food—even when it would be easier to make a living doing something else.
They've been deemed "Honored Farm Families" for this year's county fair, and they are:
Oak Shade Farm
Edward Weiners, the grandfather of current owner Edward J. Weiners, established Oak Shade Farm in Spring Prairie Township in 1889.
Weiners farms with his wife, Bev Baker.
What is it like to live and work on a farm steeped in over a century of family history?
"It gives you a smile, pride in ownership kind of," Weiners said. "It makes you think once in a while. It's real normal but it does make you think sometimes, and I like to take the best care of it I can."
A century ago, Edward Weiners established this farm as a creamery with a commercial butter-making operation. While the butter-making equipment and apparatus has long since disappeared, the old creamery building remains and still bears telltale signs of its original purpose.
Also still remaining is a massive oak tree in front of the farmhouse, where a young couple from the area once said their marriage vows.
Today, Edward J. Weiners and his family raise polled Hereford cattle and Shropshire and natural colored sheep. They also grow corn, soybeans and hay.
Maura Weiners, the 2009 Fairest of the Fair, grew up on the farm.
Mar-ke Farm in Sharon was purchased in 1903 by John Bollwahn, the great-grandfather of Marie Dowey Rithamel, who farms there today along with her husband, Keith.
Rithamel says there are times when it's not easy to continue to do what her ancestors did, and farming the way they farmed wouldn't support a family today.
"When we moved onto the farm, it had always been a dairy farm and we'd never had a dairy," she said. "We had to decide to keep going and make it work and do some building and expanding."
Today, the couple has a business that provides pig semen for artificial breeding. They also grow and harvest 80 acres of corn and beans. It is a family affair that Rithamel's son-in-law helps operate.
Clausen Family Farm
John Uebele purchased the Clausen Family Farm on Clausen road in Burlington in 1888 upon his arrival from Germany. Four generations later it is owned by Arlene Clausen, who farmed for decades with her late husband, Russell.
The couple's two sons have carried on the tradition in agriculture, working at Case-New Holland producing tractors.
Arlene, who now has two grandchildren with an interest in farming, hopes to preserve the farm for future generations.
Watson Welcome Way Farm
John William Watson purchased the Watson Welcome Way Farm on Hazel Ridge Road in Elkhorn in 1885.
Neil and Peggy Watson operate it today.