Person of the Week

Barbara Engelhart

Farmer and Owner Engelhart Farms, Pacific, Missouri

It’s always been hard.  But it’s getting harder all the time.  Between the weather and the expense of it and everything, you know, there’s hardly no money in it.  Everybody thinks we’re getting rich, but we’re not.  We just like it, that’s all.  We just like it. 

1.  What led you to the mission of being a farmer?

We have a hundred acres here.  We’ve been farming here since 1922 – my husband’s family.  I’ve been here going on fifty-seven years.  My father in law loved the farm and his wife, they lived in the city and the coal dust was so bad.  She had a hard time breathing.  So he bought this farm and he let Highway 66 go through here in the thirties.  This was all farm ground.  The railroad used to be over there and back this way.  The railroad was north and now it is south.  His name was Harry Engelhart.  He was a third generation of Harrys.  His wife had a breathing problem.  He moved out here in 1922.  He started farming this ground.

It’s always been hard.  But it’s getting harder all the time.  Between the weather and the expense of it and everything, you know, there’s hardly no money in it.  Everybody thinks we’re getting rich, but we’re not.  We just like it, that’s all.  We just like it.  We just like to stay here.  We just like this place.  We’ve been here a long time.  We don’t want to sell it.  We just want it.  Grand kids help us — and that, now, you know.  They like it too.  You just got to get it in your blood.

2.  What does this mission mean to you?

I love to farm.  It’s hard work.  I used to plant the whole field on my knees.  The seeds, you know.  Then we would harvest the corn with our bare hands.  Kids just don’t know what hard work is any more.  You know, you never get done.  There’s not a lot of money in it.  But, you know, I love to farm.   My grandma and grandpa came from farms down in Arkansas.

I never liked it in the city.  I only lived there a little while.  My one sister lived out here and I finished school in St. Louis and then I moved out here in the summer because I could always find work at the Diamond’s.   After I worked at the Diamond’s, I worked at Cozy Dine.  Then I married my husband after he came back from the Korean War.  I married him in ’55.  He came back in ’54.  We farmed full time.  His dad couldn’t do it as much.

We had dairy cattle and everything when we got married.  Chickens and all that, you know.  Right away we started trying to get the farm back because his dad had to get rid of a lot of cattle when he was here by himself.  He had arthritis and heart trouble.

3.  What was your best day as a farmer?

I don’t know.  We’ve had some really rough times and we’ve some really good times, so.  We always kind of enjoy it.  Every day we try to enjoy it, you know.  We don’t really say best or least or whatever.  We just figure whatever God lets us have, we’re working hard, we’re happy.  Whatever God let’s us work for, you know, and get.  Why, we’re happy.  If he can get all his crops in without any hail or too much rain or too little rain, or whatever.

Farming is just hard.  There’s never a perfect day, you know what I’m saying?  We’re just thankful.  Like over the weekend we got all our straw in and all our hay in before it rained.  So, we figured that was really good.  We needed the rain.  So, we’re just thankful for whatever happens with every day.

4.  What was your worst day as a farmer?

Gee.  I don’t know.  We’ve had some pretty bad days.  We thought our field was going to catch on fire ‘cause it was so dry, you know.  Especially with the straw and stuff and the hay.  Then we’ve got more growth back there now.  But it used to be when the trains would come through, we’d always be afraid that they would catch the wheat field on fire.  There’s always a lot of things that go on with the farm.  Always a lot of things that go on.  Or you can be driving through there with a truck or something and we try to avoid all that.  But it happens, you know what I’m saying?  Some times we drive through with a truck but most of the time we take wagons and the tractors.  But that is the way it is.  You have to deal with it.  We have a lot of good days and bad days.  I just can’t pick – we just go on and don’t really dwell on it, you know what I’m saying?

5.  How did you survive your worst day?

Believe in God and go on with it.  That’s all you can do.  You know what I’m saying?  That’s what we do.  You know.  That’s what we do.  You know you just deal with it.  You deal with it.  Like we’ve had cattle struck by lightning.  We’ve had mule struck by lightning.  You deal with it.  You just have to on with it.  Good days and bad days.  They got struck right there up on that hill.  Then we decided to buy a tractor.  That was in the forties.

You got all kinds of things that you deal with when you are farming.  The mule got struck by lightning so we got a tractor.  There’s lots of things you’ve got to deal with on the farm.  There’s no one thing.  Every day’s exciting — or disappointment – one of two.  We love it.  We love the farm.  The kids like the farm.  Like I said, there’s no money in it any more and its hard to pass it on from generation to generation now because of the taxes.  They all want your ground and then they make the taxes go up to where, you know, after a while you can’t hang on to it, you know what I’m saying?  Anyway, we’re going to stay here as long as we can.

3 Comments

  1. Maureen Jordan 07/15/12
    11:46 pm

    Your story is a snapshot of life long ago before iPhones, tweets and apps. You show that it is possible to go back to America’s roots, but that it is very hard work. I, too, loved your comment, “Believe in God and go on with it. It’s all you can do.” People like you built a strong America. Let’s see how this generation fares what with it’s “all about me” and “get by with as little effort necessary.” You are a wonderful role model for your grand children. Thanks for taking the time to share your story.

    Reply

  2. Barbara Sheets 07/11/12
    11:12 pm

    How I hope that people like Barbara stay a part of our society. We need these farmers who care for the land –and it takes a special kind of person to persevere in the face of hardship. Thanks for your story.

    Reply

  3. Wonderful interview; I’m going to share it with some friends who are potato farmers here in Maine. I love Barbara’s clarity here: “Believe in God and go on with it. That’s all you can do. You know what I’m saying? That’s what we do. You know. That’s what we do.” Isn’t that the truth?!

    Reply

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