There is a quiet dignity to making one’s living from the land. A farmer often works from sunrise to sunset in heat, cold, sunshine, rain, snow and any other weather condition Mother Nature can throw upon them.
Some years can be very prosperous, and others not so, and often it is simply because of the natural occurrences placed upon the land.
For their commitment and dedication to the land, the University of Missouri Extension and the Farm Bureau last week honored nine families as owners of a Century Farm in Pettis County.
Roger Cordes, president of the Pettis County Farm Bureau, told those gathered for the ceremony that not many things last 100 years and especially not things that play as large a role as farms do in the state’s economy.
For two of the nine families, and essentially for all of those honored, it is a love of the land and their heritage that continues to keep them on the farm.
“Our great-great-grandparents bought the land for our farm in 1890,” Debbi Wiskur said. “Even though my brother David and I did not grow up here, this is home.
“This is where we are all accepted for whoever we are,” Wiskur said. “It is where we came back and my husband and I raised our children and we will we spend the rest of days.”
Wiskur and her husband, Bob, live on one section of the 165-acre Spaitz Farm. Her brother, David Rhoads, lives on another parcel of the farm as does Wiskur’s daughter and family who live in her grandparents’ home on the farm.
“My great-great-grandparents had 10 children,” Wiskur said. “A lot of them never married, but one who did was our grandfather.”
Wiskur went on to explain that some of the 10 children moved to the Kansas City area, while others stayed on the farm and died in the area.
“My grandfather bought out a lot of the shares, and others were deeded down,” she said. “That’s how my grandparents came to own all the land of the farm.
“At one point in time there was a large orchard on the farm,” Rhoads said. “We had pear and apple trees and even grapes at some point.
“We don’t really know if they sold the produce from the orchard,” he added. “A couple of the original pear trees are still on the property though.”
Their ancestors made their living with livestock, and row crops, which is a condition of a Century Farm: the family must make an income from the farm. Today, the family raises and sells cattle.
Wiskur and Rhoads did not live on the farm growing up because their father was in the military and served as a pilot in World War II.
The family traveled extensively to be with him.
“For several summers, I would come back to the farm and help grandfather,” Rhoads said, “If grandpa took a step backward he would probably step on me.
“I always tried to help him,” Rhoads continued. “I was probably more underfoot than anything but he never complained.”
Wiskur said one of her fondest memories of living on the farm was that everyone helped each other.
“We would help the neighbors,” she said. “But we always knew they would help us too.”
“I love being here out in the country,” Wiskur’s daughter Trisha said. “My husband and I bought some acres from my parents because this is where we wanted to raise our family.
“It’s quieter here,” she added. “My brother Neil has moved away with his family, but he is the one who is responsible for the farm being named a Century Farm.”
She added that her brother comes home often and the family is all together on those occasions.
“This is where we all come back to,” Debbi Wiskur said. “It is home.”
The same is true for Lynn Snow and his family.
Snow and his sister, Joyce Neavils, have the distinction of having two farms named as Century Farms this year: the Riecke-Snow Farm and Hazelbrook Farm.
“They told me this is the first time two farms have been named in one year from one family,” Snow said. “I could have applied for one in 2000, but I just didn’t at the time.”
Divided today by South U.S. Highway 65, the two farms consist of 200 acres.
“My grandfather bought the original 320 acres of this farm in 1913,” Snow said. “He paid $11,000, which was a lot of money at that time.
“When he passed away it was paid for in full,” Snow added. “He worked hard but that’s why he was able to do that.
Hard work has been a constant for all the occupants who have lived on the family’s land throughout the last century.
“My mother was 99 and a half when she passed,” Snow said. “We worked every day but Sunday. I think that was the only day she probably ever sat down and she really didn’t then.
“I don’t think anyone could milk cows faster than my mother,” Snow said smiling. “She thought she had to do it quickly because she had to get in and make breakfast for everyone else.”
Both his parents instilled in Snow and his three siblings the values of responsibility that Snow feels are of the utmost importance in today’s society.
“Dad always taught us the difference between doing what we should and shouldn’t,” Snow said. “I remember when I was probably 5, my older brother and sister were outside throwing rocks at each other.”
When his father came in from the fields that evening he was told of the incident and his older siblings were given a paddling.
“My Dad said, ‘come here so I can paddle you, too,’” Snow said. “I told him I hadn’t thrown any rocks. He said it didn’t matter, ‘If I do this you will know what will happen if you do.”
Snow and his wife, Carolyn Snow, recounted other tales living on the farm but especially how everyone came together to help and accomplish whatever the task at hand.
“All the neighbors would come together to help one another out,” Carolyn Snow said. “It’s still that way here in the country.
“I came from the big town of Cole Camp,” she added. “But when we retired we both knew this is where we wanted to be.”
The couple worked in the Sedalia School District 200.
Mrs. Snow was a teacher in the district and Mr. Snow was a teacher and also served as principal of Smith-Cotton for 10 years.
“It’s so peaceful and quiet here,” Carolyn Snow said. “I love that I can let all the light from outside in the windows and watch the deer and turkeys who roam the property.”
The nearest neighbor to the couple is a quarter of a mile away and at night in the winter, the Snows said they could look out their window and see the lights shinning on their neighbor’s property.
The couple has two daughters who followed in their footsteps and both work in the field of education.
They hope one day their two daughters and their families will return to the farm.
“We raise cattle,” Snow said. “I just had a couple of calves born this morning; we’re up to almost 100 head with the 25 calves born this year.”
Snow recounted a story of a calf born nine days ago.
“I went to check on him and I couldn’t find him anywhere.” Snow said. “I rode all around the property and walked it too, but he was nowhere to be found.
“I don’t like abandoning any animal, it’s heartbreaking to do so,” he added. “I just thought, ‘he must have died,’ but (Thursday) he came up from the field, somehow he made it.
“It’s an example of one of the miracles of the farm,” Snow added. “This life has been good to all of us.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484