The ‘S’ words

Sustainability, Succession, Stewardship, Sacrifice.

Spring is in full bloom right now and were gearing up for another planting season to begin full throttle.

Which brings a lot of pain and sadness this year as opposed to the normal excitement of hustle and bustle when we were still farming the Lauer family farm.

I’ve mentioned before that my grandpa was a member of the local soil and water district, so preserving his land and practicing good stewardship on the farm was his utmost priority, as did my dad in following the same practices and priorities in that regard.

However, this year, I’m not sure that I can even drive past the family farms that has recently been sold without visibly getting irritated. Being reminded that all the hard work and effort, sacrifices and memories my family has done and made to put in terraces and waterways over the years, are completely flattened and ready to be farmed over for it’s first time in decades.

The shock still hasn’t worn off since seeing all the freshly tilled top soil on the top of the snow this winter on these particular farms. Which is unusual for us, because we’ve always been a 100% no-till farm for many years and very conscientious about being good stewards of the land in a conventional aspect.

Now, I cringe for the line of farmers that butt up to these fields, knowing the problems they will soon face with excess run-off, soil erosion and other miscellaneous unfortunes . For example, they will all now have to start thinking about tiling their field to help with water flow so spots in their field won’t “wash out”. Mind you, something we were extremely mindful of when we were farming it.

I feel so frustrated towards these big time operators, that they can’t or simply won’t take the time to care for the land as well as us small time farmers can and do by paying attention to even the smallest detail! Who knows if they even enjoy or have fun in the same ways that we could and did while farming these farms. Particularly because they were so strategic to go around with all the fun terraces, contours and point rows. I’m aware that their bigger equipment makes it harder to manage doing such practices on smaller sized farms, and each person has every opportunity and right to farm and operate differently from one crop to the next; regardless of it being upsetting for me to see and watch happen.

However, seeing this unfold has made me realize how lucky I am to be able to still utilize my wealth of knowledge in plant and soil health on my own farm with my husband, to continue to keep the same practices alive and working to remain the best stewards of this land. I’m willing and able to sacrifice what it takes to continue to keep our farm in order and remain in our family, and that I’m truly thankful for.

Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, the female farmer role model in my life is my mom.

In the spring she would haul ammonia tanks back and forth all day long and tendered seed when the planter needed refilling. You betchya she could lift those heavy 75 pound seed bags all by herself too. 

You could find her in a grain bin sweeping it empty, as it was being unloaded into an elevator’s semi to haul to town, when it was ready to be sold.  

In the fall she would drive any tractor Dad decided to hook up a set of wagons to and navigate through the field for unloads on the go. She would bring those wagons back to the grain facility at home to unload into the pit to distribute to the wet bin or dryer during harvest. 

On top of being a farmer’s wife, she was also a stay-at-home mom. She was courageous enough to not return to work and become a stay-at-home mom, giving my sisters and I an incredible childhood. Not only was she a mom and farm laborer, she also ALWAYS had supper ready for the family and made sure my dad would stop to eat and spend time with us even if it was for fifteen minutes during the busy seasons.

Honestly, looking back now, being a mother of two boys myself having gone through a few farming seasons already with my own husband and family, I do NOT know how she did it.

She is proof that women can do anything! I certainly hope I can portray this same strength to my boys as they grow up.

My: “Why”.

I wouldn’t describe him as a fighter. He’s more of a peacekeeper.

A hard worker, too. But, I’m biased, because he’s my dad and I’ve watched him my whole life.

At the very beginning of 2022 I had my heart set on telling MY side of basically his story, and I’ve since then started to slowly chicken out. I didn’t want to ruffle feathers or hurt anyone’s feelings if family or close friends were to see my words.

But that’s the thing about truth telling and authenticity; it might ruffle some feathers. 

Someone else out there has probably gone through, and is currently going through, the same difficult situation that my family has gone through and is still continuing to fight through.

So, I’m going to tell it anyway- in the shortest, most painless way.

The family farm got sold against my wishes, my dad’s wishes, and my grandparent’s wishes.  

I’m devastated, heartbroken, angry and lost about the whole entire situation.

I have identified myself as a farmer’s daughter my whole life growing up. And now I don’t even know how to explain or figure out what generation of farmer I am after being removed from our family farm and then marrying into a different farm. It’s confusing and painful.

I look at all my other social media influencers who can proudly state what generation farmer they are and how beautiful and wonderful their farming backgrounds are. But mine is messy. And grief driven.

All I can think about this situation is how “unfair” it is.

Why did God place this obstacle in our lives? Lord, I wouldn’t want anyone else facing these types of challenges either!

But, that’s not the point of all of this. The point is- this guy pictured is my hero. He has gone through hell and back with his siblings who want nothing more than to hold grudges and cause fights. Not only that, he has lost one of his greatest prides- the family farm. Despite this, he continues to live life with a positive attitude while helping his own daughters and son-in-laws grow a better and stronger farming future. What a role model for the future farmers in my family. I’m so proud of how strong and loving my dad continues to be.

Generational Curse

Farming is believing in tomorrow, and choosing the right avenues to keep it working.
I say right avenues because our family WAS a bicentennial homesteaded farm. It took decades of experience, seasoned wisdom, dedication, trial and error, not to mention PLENTY of financial risk, resilience, heartache, blood, sweat, tears, and an UnGodly amount of sacrifices to make it work. The farm was undoubtedly taken for granted.

It should have been a farm that was going to last and stay in the family for many MORE generations.

It should have. Instead, it was sold to some BTOs on an auction immediately after my grandparents passed away.  All fingers point towards it being from lack of communication and a pinch of spiteful grudges for our last name to no longer appear in the plat book.

I take partial fault, because I had a million and one chances to make my feelings known and heard as to how much I loved agriculture. However, I’m not sure it would have mattered as being a girl was also against my odds to be taken seriously. Still, to this day, many decisions regarding my agricultural future are out of my control, because I’m not taken seriously enough to be a part of influential happenings. Chalk it up to a long line of stubborn men and not being able to control other people’s decisions. 

I have to keep telling myself that equal doesn’t necessarily mean fair, and that’s what is irrevocably questionable to me.

Why didn’t it matter to my dad’s siblings that he put his sweat equity into the farm for his entire life when none of the rest of them did? Shouldn’t he have gotten “more” of the farm after the passing of his parents, and the sale of the farm? Or should the inheritance have been equal to every heir regardless of time working on versus off the farm? (That seems to be the million dollar question right there. No-one seems to be 100% sure what’s right or what’s wrong to do in that matter. Every farm is different.)

Any business should have a plan put in place though, to keep it together when someone dies. Other than an estate plan, which every farmer/business should have set in place, but another important plan is a transition plan or succession plan. Which is an area that fell apart quite quickly for this family, thus making it that much easier for the K&EL trust to be deemed a complete failure at a generational standpoint.

Things can easily get misconstrued, when you have too many hands in the pot. Wishes can get changed, plans can get overlooked, just as quickly as a handshake not meaning anything quite like it used to.

Grandma and grandpa had 11 kids, and out of those eleven kids only ONE of them took to the farm, my dad. The mistake they made, other than some serious lack of communication, was also having shattered pride and a failed attempt to let go of control when the “leader” of the farm started declining, health wise. These older guys are usually pretty unwilling to let go of control for farm decisions and really love to micromanage what goes on, because they have too much pride in fear over losing it all. Which is exactly what happened anyways for our farm.

Why am I holding on to this grudge, you wonder? The answer is, because I have countless memories on those farms, just like my dad probably does. It gives me great heartache to know that minds weren’t completely focused and feet stopped moving towards the future. Fears overtook pride, and change was not embraced. That farm legacy did not sustain what could have been, and that’s what ultimately makes me sad.

I hope it doesn’t happen to your farm. It’s a priceless value; farming. So many life lessons to be learned, and a whole lot of faith put into the greater good of our God holding it all together. I’m thankful for a second chance to do things a better way for my sons on our little farm that my husband and I are trying to grow.


Supporting Local

What does supporting local mean to you?

To me, I always thought it meant gathering as a community to help support whoever, for whatever reason necessary, whenever help was needed.

Dropping your guard down (in a small “village” of less than 400 people like mine, means not caring what your last name is) long enough to help out those in need in a humble manner without judgments or the expectation for anything in return.

Where am I going with this you might ask?

Just recently my husband and I were bluntly asked if we were on team no-mask. Boy, Covid-19 has really made this world weird. Hang with me.

America’s school systems have mandated children to wear masks to school and daycare since this pandemic came into our lives.

Republican-Democrat

White-Black

Anti-vaxer-Vaxer

Doesn’t matter. These children’s lives are not “normal”. They aren’t experiencing the same things we got to when we were their ages. It’s quite frankly not fair. That seems like a childish phrase to say, but we strongly agree that we need to regain control for the safety and health of our littles!

That being said, were proposing to bring back the old ways and make homeschooling in a small schoolhouse setting a thing again. Were not sure how or when, but I know for certain that we’re bringing this community back together where it belongs one step at a time.

Wish us luck on this journey!

Fighting for it

I used to be quiet and lead by example, until I found my confidence in knowing that my families story is important and worth knowing. I have finally found my voice and I am finding strength in talking about what I’m passionate about.

{Farming}

I was raised on a 500 acre corn and soybean farm, mostly nurtured by my dad and grandpa and a few ancestors that settled here back in 1848 making our family farm a homestead. (Fun fact, my family was one of the very first families to settle in our tiny town, called Sublette, way back when!)

My dad held a ‘town’ job for about 28 years out of his 38 total years of farming. Meaning, if I ever wanted to spend time with my dad (which I did, because I was a huge daddy’s girl), I had to wake up early in the morning, when it was still pitch black out to watch the weather and local news with him. When I got older, I still woke up early for our morning ritual of weather/news watching, and waving goodbye to him out the front window- I was then able to, after school, go ‘back-shed’ and help wash tractor cab windows, or air up tractor tires to help on the farm. Eventually, leading up to me being old enough, or more likely- tall enough, to drive a tractor, unload grain on the go during harvest, run the combine [or planter during the spring], and even unload the grain wagons into the pit at our bin site. So, for me, the only life I knew- was seeing my dad go to work, come home from work- just to do more work, and then go to bed just to do it all over again the following day. Typical life of a blue collar worker.

Endless, thankless work. Just to be able to farm and live The American Dream. Nonetheless, worth it.

Not to mention the sacrifices my parent’s had to make to live this lifestyle- of my mom being a stay at home mom who helped farm during planting and harvest season, and my dad “getting” to farm the family farm. Something that my dad’s [10] siblings must’ve loathed seeing him do… literally putting all of his blood, sweat and tears into a farm that they had secretively planned to sell- immediately after the passing of their parents. Regardless of their own parent’s wishes for keeping the farm in the family [literally written in their will], nor even giving my dad a chance to cash rent it from them for a fair price. His siblings had a different mindset, one more heartless and cruel. Thinking that my dad had “made his millions” from farming the farm when he had the chance to farm it, and he shouldn’t be given the chance to farm it any further. If anyone knows about the farm life- you put what you make from the farm back into the farm. That’s how it thrives and grows! Lord knows we don’t do what we do for the money! So, they actively swiped him of his position of being a trustee of said trust for the farm, belittling him and continued to keep kicking him while he was down time and time and time again. My dad’s multiple lawyers had actually all squirmed away from trying to help him win this fight against his bully, wrongful, uninformed, grudge-filled, spiteful siblings.

I feel bad saying those words, but I feel like I spent just as much time with my grandpa as his own children did, growing up. I know he wasn’t a perfect example, and I know he knew of some areas where he could’ve done better. Any parent can safely look back and pinpoint more than a few times where they didn’t do or say the right thing to their kids! One story that sticks out at me for grudge-keeping was where my grandpa had told his daughters, that “they aren’t Lauer’s anymore”. Meaning, they’ve been married off and have a new last name. Fair, yes; equal, not at all! So, I get where they might stem their grudge filled hate from. I get it! I’d hate my dad too if he told me I couldn’t farm. Not digging deeper to think, hey- this might be the end of the line to keep it’s name-sake. Which might have been important to grandpa. Especially in this small town, farming is cut throat. If you don’t have the “right last name” you’re bound for shaky waters for other BTO to swipe up your land.

It’s always been a fight to be a part of the farm life for me too though, just because of my gender! It surely didn’t mean I stopped fighting to do the hard thing and be a part of it though! – My mom still complains to this day that I spent too much time back shed helping dad and putting my own sweat equity out there rather than in the house with her. I fooled them both though, I can cook, clean AND farm. To this day, I’m still learning to be okay watching my dad help my brother-in-law farm more than he has for me. Regardless of the easiness he may think my husband supposedly has it with his family still farming. Begrudgingly, I’m also not a part or welcome to their farm quite yet either. (That’s a story for a different time.)

Nonetheless, it’s been a heart wrecking process to watch my dad lose the strength to fight and stand up for himself and his beliefs for this farm. I’m positive his age was a big reason for stepping back from this fight, not to mention a mountain of debt being wasted on useless lawyers, but from what I’ve seen- I’m actually grateful to see my dad go through this difficulty. New chapters in life are now available to him, that never would have happened before. It also has helped me realize how to structure the farm that my husband and I now own, and are working towards building and growing.

The only thing I’m left bitter about, is being jealous that I could have had an opportunity to have known my [10] aunts and uncles and countless amount of cousins better than I ever got to. Even though they all live less than a 30ish mile radius, they are all still very much estranged from my life. Maybe I’m also a little bitter about the fact that my dad could’ve been a little more business savvy too, by buying different farm ground throughout the years, which I know is wrong- looking back now. He had to purchase the equipment from grandpa and his brother, as well as putting money towards a chemical program and seed, ect. for the farm all these years, which is quite the expense! And having three girls with expensive taste didn’t help him either. But who knows, perhaps he would and could still be farming “Lauer” ground and not just his son-in-laws or for random neighbors throughout the countryside if he would’ve done things differently and dealt with some extra debt to rebuild equity in the long run.

Farming, I guess, is what broke that family, and I’m glad to have my own to start new relationships and bonds in. I know it will be trying, and restless; nevertheless worth it. I too, am very sure we will make our own mistakes to learn from the hard way. So, in conclusion- I’m glad we have their mistakes to learn from. Farming is worth fighting for.

My 4020 Story

My grandpa bought our family’s 4020 brand new in 1967 from Reeser Farm Equipment. It served as their main day-to-day tractor, even through today! My dad has told me several stories about how he had to stand on the seat, and drive with his foot during harvest to be tall enough to flag grandpa down (who was in the combine) when the wagons that he was pulling behind the 4020 was getting full enough to go unload.

The 4020 was the first tractor my dad taught me how to drive on my parent’s 40, during harvest. He rode on the fender just long enough for me to get the hang of things, abruptly jumping off to run alongside the tractor to go hop into the combine to keep things moving. (Also, my first time learning sign language- farmers edition- for: stop, throttle up/down, etc.)

The 4020 actually saved my dad’s life in an accident he was in, shifting equipment around to get ready for the next season of farming, when a tail wind caught him just right. -It was obvious that it immediately needed to be fixed back up to keep the operations of the farm “normal”. So, the rollback bar was put back on it for safety purposes, and it now has a spot on my brother-in-law’s farm either grinding feed for cattle, hooked up to an auger ready to unload grain from a nearby bin, or even mowing road ditches.

I was lucky enough to have it featured (after being fixed back up, in 2018) as my “get away ride” for after my wedding ceremony!

My favorite memory was from a few harvest seasons ago, (unfortunately, one of the last memories to be had on this farm) was my mom sitting on the fender on the 4020 as my dad was driving it with a set of DMI wagons behind them, me driving the 8530 with my husband in the buddy seat with another set of DMI wagons behind us, and my little sister and brother-in-law were in the combine. Picture perfect weather to finish a late night of harvesting with the family. It was probably the most fun we had on the farm as a family, with no break-downs!

I can’t imagine the farm world without a 4020 in it. It’s so versatile and practical. You can’t beat the feeling of an open cab tractor, that has several stories to be told about it.

Long live the family farms

How do we preserve an inheritance? [Not that I think we are owed one, by any means!]

But, after seeing my dad [brother to ten siblings] lose reign from the family farm after being sold, soon after his parents had died. I have come to the conclusion that Wills (or any legal document for that matter) quite literally-don’t mean shit. Which is sad and confusing. Especially when someone puts effort forth into putting something as large as a 500 acre farm into a trust.

So I ask myself, how will my family be different? What will we have to sacrifice, so our sons and their future kids/grandkids/great grandkids don’t have to. Understanding the fact that short term pleasures don’t outweigh long term goals when it comes to the farm, is a hard pill to swallow but Lord knows that it will be worth it! Aligning our goals and staying well informed with good communication amongst everyone is also the key that I think they were missing.

My families future is definitely the reason that makes me want to farm today. It’s surely not for the faint at heart, and I’m willing to do what it takes to see our farm hit milestones that theirs didn’t want to. Granted our farm isn’t homesteaded like theirs was, and will take us years to see it become a century, sesquicentennial, or even bicentennial farm.

I believe in the future farmers ahead of us, and leaving a lasting legacy for them.

A strong foundation will not shake, because it has been well built. -Luke 6:47-48

I wish family farms never got sold & grandpas never died.

Riley Green sang it upsettingly perfect! I recently watched everything that I knew, loved, grew up with, helped out and learned on; be sold.

Perhaps, I took it for granted when I had the luxury of living on the farm that my dads [10] siblings had also grown up on, but didn’t fight for it hard enough or let anyone know how badly I wanted it, to be able to keep it too!

I’m not sure what was more heartbreaking to watch unfold though.

My dad who put his entire life of blood, sweat, and tears into be pulled out from under him. All while also watching this hardworking man slowly give up his strength of fighting for what he believed in and also loved.

Or my dad’s siblings lose out on an entire lifetime of wealth that they were too inept (or maybe even spiteful) to not keep.

Either way, nobody won. Not one single person or family member. And I’ll never know the true reason why. Why they hated this farm, or possibly my dad (their brother), or even their past memories of the farm. Granted it wasn’t that many acres to fight or have any grudges over.

But, I must say that it’s been absolutely eye opening to look at the Sullivan’s auction website where the K&EL farm was sold- that there is an endless amount of Trusts being put up for sale though, too! It wasn’t just ours.

Which made me utterly sad. For every other unheard and misunderstood family going through the same thing. Making sacrifices everyday to meet the needs of the farm. All for the non-farming members of the family who don’t understand, or were never kept in the loop of the importance of keeping the land in the trust- sell it all off in a blink of an eye.

Anyways, “the family farm” got sold to several BTO (big time operators) who already bulldozed over the terraces and waterways (before winter hit to save time before this next planting season) that my grandpa put his own sweat, blood, tears, and time into building. Trying to save the soil quality, all while being a good steward of his owned land. Something my father followed foot in as well. All that hard work and good efforts, were worth nothing it seems like. And that’s what hurts me the most, I think.

There’s plenty of bitterness that’s left behind. And, I believe this is my reason for starting this blog, is to find my path out of this rut and to hopefully find forgiveness as well. Ultimately, to do better for my sons and the farm I’m creating with my husband, and to leave a legacy for them that they don’t need to fight as hard for to keep.

The terrace on the west home piece [that is now flattened]. All eleven heirs and my grandma- pictured.

Being a good steward

Colossians 3: 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

My dad and grandpa both come to mind when I think about good stewards. I saw them throughout all of my childhood, tirelessly and endlessly work hard. They loved their land and treated it with the utmost care and respect. They both were conservationists who played a big role in their local soil and water board. They carefully planned the when and the what and the how as far as their weed control management, and soil erosion program goes. You could visually see the pride they had for their land in how well they kept it, striving for it’s absolute best potential.

Talk about passion!

I loved that they loved farming. It didn’t matter how much blood, sweat and tears it took- they would relentlessly do it over and over again each season, not to mention what else they had to sacrifice to make the American dream happen for themselves and their families, unquestionably they did it.

They did it for the next generation. They took what they had, and made it better. That alone, in my eyes, is being a good steward.

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