Editor’s note: The following is part of a series about family farm experiences from the 1920s.
SOLON, Iowa — Having been a farming family for more than 100 years, the Glicks have seen a lot of changes.
When Larry Glick thinks of the stories he heard from his parents of farming back in the early 20th century, a lot of them center around the differences in equipment. Horses were used in place of gas-powered vehicles and tractors in the fields.
However, Glick said when it comes to their practices, the family has always been a bit ahead of the curve.
“My dad was kind of ahead of his time, but he never really said much about it,” Larry said. “When he did plow, he didn’t like the ground too black. He liked a little bit of corn stalks there. In 1967, him and my uncle bought a Sidewinder — a big rotary tiller. It was wide enough for four rows. They used that for planting and it worked the ground up, but left it so it didn’t erode very much.”
Larry said the farm went full no-till in 1983 and regularly uses cover crops.
The family farm near Solon in eastern Iowa was started by Larry’s great-grandfather, William Fankhauser, in 1897, and Larry’s parents moved onto the farm around 1939. He said they ran a diverse operation with row crops, hogs and cattle, which was common for the time.
The farm still has row crops and a cow-calf operation, which Larry operates with his wife Berrie and son Rob, but around the late 1970s they dropped the hog operation in an effort to become a little more focused.
While there are a lot of memories on the farm, some of the first to spring to mind are the tough times.
The family lost one of the original houses on the property during major flooding in 2008.
“The house Larry grew up in — the yard had been flooded many times, but water never had been in the house,” Berrie said. “But then it was 8 feet high on the outside of the house and 6 foot high in the dining room.”
Larry said they were fortunate to have enough of a cushion going into the 1980s to survive those times.
“There was a time in there when interest rates were quite ridiculous,” Larry said. “We were able to make it through that.”
He said the depressed markets in 2020 are a little different. He chalks that up to the way bankers are approaching the situation with a longer-term plan this time around.
“I don’t think they were really encouraging farmers to try and hang on to stuff in the ’80s,” Larry said. “They are a little more into the finances right now.
100 more years?
The farm’s future now moves to the hands of Rob and his family. Rob’s wife, Amy, is the Farm Bureau president in Cedar County. Their two children, Grady and Carson, are both in school.
With Grady getting ready for his senior year of high school, he said he has always wanted to come back to the farm, but understands it might not be guaranteed.
“I got to go to college in case something backfires and then at least I have a degree so I can go into town,” he said. “I’d love to come back to the farm, though. That would be pretty cool.”
Rob said it’s understandable for the kids to not know if they will be back on the farm as adults given the current climate.
“I’m not sure what they are going to do right now,” Rob said. “It’s not pretty.”
When Rob joined with his father in the farming operation, it was part of the plan. If his kids decide to join the operation later in life, the plan would be the same.
One constant through the past 100 years has been chores, which have helped the younger boys stay involved in the operation.
“The last couple of years, the boys have really gotten more involved,” Amy said. “They understand what we do and why we do it.”
Larry describes them family as “a little old fashioned” since they have daily chores, whether that’s carrying a bucket of feed or silage, especially during calving season.
“We are the silage kings,” Grady said. “If there’s manure to be hauled there’s a 99% chance that I’m the one hauling it.”
Carson said he’s been driving the skid loader a lot more on the farm, which has been a fun experience.
Using the past as his guide, Larry said he has a positive outlook on the future of the farm if it is able to stay in the family.
“I don’t think you can be a farmer without being optimistic,” he said. “I think there’s always a brighter future. Sometimes you have to weather the storms.”