Trials of Jesse West — Farms and Fields Revisited

author’s note: Kay’s family shares several names in common with my family and with Meg’s. I have removed all indicators of these names and her location to protect privacy.

Kay was one of the six who did not settle in Nebraska, but moved back to her hometown in Iowa. Kay quickly determined while student teaching in the New Orleans Lower 9th Ward that she was not cut out to be a teacher. Three weeks after graduation, Kay married a man in her hometown, basically the boy next door. Her husband needed her near at home to assist in maintaining the large farm. At the time of this writing she has been living in the same house, for 32 years! (others of us will record this same number but in residential relocations)

She had 3 great kids, staying home to care for the family until their adulthood. Her pride and joy are her grounded children, now full- fledged growers in their own fields. (Residual college prank, sorry). At present, she is also working full time teller at local bank as the family is reliant on the extra income and medical benefits. A statement on the injustices to our American farmer and within our medical system.

No Christian educational experience, no chapel sermon or spiritual song prepares a parent for the unbearable, devastating loss of a child. In 2001, her 18 year old son was lost in a tragic car accident. An incident still reverberating along rich soils ripe with oats and alfalfa.

This pivotal life changing event did not stop the family. The farm was in the middle of harvest and the two younger children in school; life had to go on. Without disparagement to her other children, the loss of the younger children’s idol was met as a challenge. And the others stepped up to bear the weight.

Despite a distressing diagnosis of epilepsy, her younger son manages to keep up with the vigorous farm work and has a knack for repairing decades old equipment. Her daughter followed in her footsteps and is a teacher nearby while maintaining a crucial role in farm operations and communications.

Kay loves her situation and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. She loved being a farmer’s daughter just as much as a farmer’s wife. She and her husband relish working daily with their kids as a corporation. She craves the solitude, the quiet and ability of entertaining within the family. (How often does one hear this in our time?)

Kay has never felt her education was wasted; she recognizes that she used it in unique and creative ways and the experience itself was invaluable! Learning to live with other people was a major part of growing up; her Christian bonds bred survival throughout her being. Her life is beautifully summarized in a recent article in her local paper regarding the 100 year old status of the family farm. An honor that is unfortunately diminishing in a nation reliant on farm products:
A 101-year-old Iowa farm has a long tradition of being the meeting place for family gatherings, reunions and other events. And it’s the family ties that make this particular farm special.
“Family has always been important and important to this farm,” said Kay. “It’s the family meeting place for the fourth-generation.
“The way I was brought up, the farm and livestock always come first,” says Kay’s daughter. “I knew I was needed here on the farm and was blessed to have this opportunity to live close to home and do what I love. I am honored to live in this house on this farm.”
Some of that honor comes from being the fifth generation to live on the same property.
“I am proud to keep my family’s dreams of farming the land and raising livestock. I can realize and appreciate all the struggles they endured to get me where I am today, and I do not take that for granted.”
The “farm first” motto became a part of the family when Kay’s great-grandfather, John , purchased the site in 1910.
The family came from Germany and stayed in Chicago for a time before moving Iowa.
When the farm was purchased in 1910, part of the house was standing. After building the barn, which is still in use today, the house was enlarged. Some of the second generation even had to sleep in the barn while the addition to their house was being built.
Many of the outbuildings that were erected in the first generation are still standing. The barn has been a large asset to the farm, housing everything including horses, her brother’s pigs and the family’s cattle.

“It’s had many thousands of bales in it over the years. The entire family agrees how valuable farming is to them. The farm is pretty important,” said Kay . “It’s a part of who we are. Farming is in our blood – all of us.”

Her daughter states, “It is important to my brother and I to keep the farm in the family. It saddens me to see other Century Farms sold as soon as the old folks pass on. I know how hard my family before me worked and how hard my parents and my brother and I have worked. I take pride in who I am and where I am from. I may not have been born and raised in this house like my mom and grandpa before me, but it is still home to me.”

Though Kay’s guitar sits silent in the corner, with a bit of dust on it, I say, “Well played, Kay, well sung.”

One comment

  1. It was well told and very interesting.  I am glad to hear that some people are staying on the old farms and keeping them going.  Mom 

    Much like our own Kay. Cw

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