Iowa Public Television

 

The Farm Crisis Impacts a Variety of Farmers

posted on October 10, 2013


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This segment is part of the The Farm Crisis documentary, which examines the tragic circumstances faced by farmers for most of the 1980s, when thousands were forced into bankruptcy, land values dropped by one-third nationally, and sky-high interest rates turned successes into failures seemingly overnight. 

Kaye Hagedorn: So I guess maybe I set my cap for a farmer because oh, that just sounded so romantic and I ended up marrying an Iowa farmer.  So that's how I got here.

Dean Hagedorn: My dad had always been a cattle man, had cattle and I started in partnership with him and then eventually started renting from him, bought his machinery and in the early 70s he bought a house in town and we moved into the "big" house.  We had a small tented house to start with and then moved in where mom and dad were and then he moved into town.

Dean Hagedorn's land was in northwest Iowa.  His family had farmed in the area for 100 years.  Dean and his wife Kay and their three children grew corn, soybeans and alfalfa on 560 acres, both owned and rented.  But they also raised cattle and hogs.  Diversification was the name of the game back then.  They were young and getting into agriculture in what seemed like a perfect time.

Dean Hagedorn: Pretty much the best of everything -- the independence, the freedom.  I still believe maybe the best place to raise kids.

Kirsten Hagedorn: Your whole family was part of it.  It was really integrated and so, you know, my dad didn't go off to work and then not see him all day.  You know, he was home, he was there and we were part of that life.  So instead of him having a job, we as a family had an occupation.

Kaye Hagedorn: Dean used to tease me and say, this is not Old McDonald's Farm, this is a commercial operation and we don't need to have every animal known to man.  I was just having a wonderful time raising all kinds of animals just for the sheer joy of learning new stuff.
Indeed, life was good down on the farm.  It was a familiar story for many making their living on the land.

Bob Sullivan: Our goal was, I think it's a responsibility to leave every farm better than we found it and I think we stayed with that all the way through.

Bob Sullivan represented the third generation of his family to farm near Dunlap, Iowa.  He and his wife Theresa and their 16 children grew corn, soybeans and alfalfa and raised cattle.  In the early 1970s the Sullivan's had good net worth and could borrow anywhere.  So they expanded their operation to 1400 acres to get their seven sons involved.

Bob Sullivan: We were always a family.  The good thing about it we could always work together, even the kids and that was a good thing about it.  And so often that people say, what a neat family you have, but then couldn't we just borrow one of the for a while?  And I said, well you could, you can borrow them all for a day but you can't have one of them to keep.

Wendell Tuttle: I had four head of horses and a little horse machinery.  We started in 1946.

Third generation grower Wendell Tuttle farmed nearly 40 years on 330 acres in southern Iowa.  He bought his last section of land in 1965 and within a decade had it nearly paid for.  Tuttle also sold insurance to supplement the farm income while one of his sons and daughter-in-law helped run the operation.

Wendell Tuttle: In 1967, we built a milking parlor and a big free stall barn with 60 stalls in it to hold 60 cows.  We were milking 55 cows twice a day and just the family and everybody pitched in, everybody had their job.  But I enjoyed it.  I grew up on the farm and I would sometimes say I'd like to be there today.  But the shape I'm in, I'm close enough to the farm now.

Norma Fetter: We lived on the family farm.  He had grown up there, lived there all his life.  We got married in '58 and he went to the service.  When he got home he took over the farming operation.  So spring of 1960 we moved to the farm and raised our family there.

Norma Fetter and her husband Phil farmed near Chelsea, Iowa.  They grew grain and raised livestock with their 10 children.  Phil was the third generation of his family to make a living on the land.

Norma Fetter: He worked hard, farmed other than his own farm, rented out a lot of other ground in the area.  People that had jobs, you know, that did not farm and whatever rented their ground too.  So we had a large hog operation at one time, cattle.  I had 300 chickens.  So we had eggs and our own chickens and whatever.  I grew up in town so it was totally new to me when we moved to the farm but I liked the fact of the privacy of the farm, whatever.  In fact, living in town now I still kind of miss that.


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