June 15 was one of many exceptional days at the Geditz farm near Ipswich.
“We started at 8:30 in the morning and finished up at 7:30 that night,” Larry Geditz, 61, of Ipswich said. “One of us was running the V-rake with two of us baling. It was great to be out there with the family working together. That’s when you know you’ve done something right. The wind dried the alfalfa, it was 90 degrees with no rain on the hay. We put up 650 bales with no major breakdowns. We don’t get many days like those.”
This love of farming and connection with his family led Larry to be chosen as one of Farm Forum’s Farming Fathers for 2020. “When you get all the family out there, including grandsons and my wife Cindy, it’s pretty rewarding. It’s amazing to have that, especially in today’s world.”
In a normal year, the Farm Forum staff would take dinner to the family and friends in the field. Photos would be taken and a story would detail why Larry was chosen. With the COVID-19 precautions, this year the family received a gift certificate for dinner from a local eatery and provided the Farm Forum with photos and interviews.
Larry’s wife Cindy submitted the nomination, writing, “Working with family on a farm has become a rare thing with the instability of crop and cattle prices. This dad and grandpa is proud of the working relationship he has with his two sons and is teaching them and his three grandsons the gift of patience and faith in God. Experiencing that first baby calf of the season or watching that first kernel of grain come through the warm soil reminds him why he loves being a farmer.”
Larry and Cindy were high school sweethearts. “He was a farm boy and I was a farm girl. We grew up together; he liked my blue eyes and blond hair. We’ve been together for 40 years.” Larry worked for Cindy’s parents, Wesley and Sylvia Stern, in their dairy operation for 25 years. Today, the family grows corn and soybeans and raises black Simmental cross cattle.
Seven years ago, Cindy took early retirement from the Farm Service Agency. With a laugh, she said, “I’m the paperwork queen, since I’m familiar with what needs to be done. I get out in the fields to rake and drive grain carts when needed.”
Cindy shared, “Our sons Mitch and Mason have learned by example. Larry is good about letting the boys make decisions instead of telling them what to do. They voice their opinions and, like all families, sometimes they disagree.”
Living just three miles away, Mitchell and his wife Jennifer have three sons 15, 12 and 7. Cindy said, “They are typical farm boys with a good work ethic. They watch how grandpa does things and follow his example. He has a lot of patience with them and that’s how they learn. Some kids don’t have that opportunity to learn skills from their grandpa.”
Mason and his wife Kelcey are expecting a baby later this year.
On the farm, the family knows they have to take the good with the bad. “Many don’t understand that you can’t put crops in a shed to protect them from nasty weather. City people had a tough time dealing with isolation for 6 to 9 weeks; here it’s just a part of our life.”
The nomination was unexpected, according to Larry. “Cindy surprised me when she told me they had chosen me as one of Farm Forum’s Farming Fathers.”
He explained their operation. “After Cindy’s dad retired, we took over his land and we farm it together with our sons. Since we each own one third of the crop, they market their own production. For the crops, we work together for planting and harvesting corn and soybeans following no-till practices. That lets them get into farming gradually and gives them a chance to learn responsibility. When I step down, they’ll know how to do it.”
As far as the cattle, each family has their separate stock cows on their own location. Each one cares for and checks their own animals. Some things, like putting up hay and working cows, they do together.
Larry admits, “I’m not good with technology, especially with what is on the new tractors and sprayers. I’m 61 and my sons are in their 30s. There is a lot of difference in our knowledge. The boys try to keep me updated, but I prefer the days using a pencil and paper to figure out things.”
A family farm is not all roses, and there are always challenges. Larry said this year, “We had more prevent plant than ever before. It looked dry and then we got 4 inches last week. Farming is tough, mostly because we can’t control the weather.”
“My dad Jimmy Geditz, who has passed away, farmed when there were no cabs on tractors,” Larry said. His mom Marion still provides good advice. “My dad always told me, ‘You get out of it what you put into it. You’ll not get rewards if you don’t work hard.’ I wanted to run around with friends but the hard work taught me, the rewards are good.”
Some of those rewards come with having grandsons living just a few miles away. He said, “Carter, age 15, is a great help with cattle. The two younger ones love riding in the pastures to look for crocuses in the spring. It’s fun to work with them to feed the bottle calves. I love having conversations with them. They are learning about farming, just like I did from my dad.”
Mitchell, 36, learned about farming with his dad on his grandfather’s farm.
“We work together by getting together to decide what to do. It’s a combined effort,” he said. “Technology has changed immensely in the 20 years I’ve been doing it. It’s gotten so that to keep up with technology, you spend more time on the computer than in the tractor. There are a lot of tools on the Internet that can help you figure things out, from how machines work and how to fix them to what crop varieties are working. I check out that stuff then take it back to share with my dad.”
Having his kids involved in the operation is a real blessing, Mitchell said. “Carter helps a lot; he’s rolling rocks right now. With today’s conditions, I think it might be best for him to work for someone else, and if he still enjoys farming, to then come back to our operation so he can see what it’s like to work for someone else.”
For Mitchell, the best part of farming is seeing the crops come up and sitting next to each other at the sale barn, reviewing the calves going through the ring and planning on what they can improve for next year.
Mason, 33, remembers riding with his dad on his Farmall tractor when he was a little guy. “It would be the middle of winter and I’d beg to go with him. It was in my blood and I knew it was important. I was excited to help.”
Mason describes his dad as a person who would drop anything to help another person out. He’s an excellent farmer and good at what he does.
Mason said his father is looking forward to welcoming a new grandchild and being able to share life lessons.
“The markets now are bad, but it’s always something. I’ve learned hard work pays off sooner or later. Sometimes you have to battle tough times to get to the good times. My dad is great at teaching that. We are all three independent on our own places, but we know we can always go to each other for help.”
Mason said his dad taught him lessons based on his experiences. He said, “The most important thing is to respect everyone, respect the animals, and don’t be in too big of a rush to get things done.”