OF Sweat and Soil
By John W. Vander Velden
When I wander the “place”, the farmstead, there are times when I let my mind go back to what we found here. Though some might have called it a working dairy farm, I am not certain that would be my description of this farm in 1972. I remember the piles of metal, mostly over worn farm equipment. A crumpled corn picker, the manufacturer unrecognizable, a corn planter that sat rotting away fertilizer still in its deteriorating hoppers, stacks of old fence, tangled, and just about everywhere bits and pieces of discarded “stuff”. Behind the only structure that one could imagine as a machine storage shed we found the crumpled remains of a silo roof.
We spent a Sunday afternoon, the whole family together, gathering wagon after wagon of junk to add to the existing piles. Old fences lay tumbled down, the cow barn hadn’t been scrapped out in months, a mess of its own. All the manure, whenever the former man had spread it, had covered the lot next to the house with such a thick layer that nothing grew there for a year. A chemical spill had killed all the grass in about half the yard. The lot in front of the milking parlor looked like a war zone, with the twisted pipes, of an abandoned cattle crossing, sticking out the mounds of reddish earth between open holes revealing severed sever pipes.
The milking equipment did not work. Period! Nor did the feeder and silo unloader. The conveyor for loading bales in the barn was mis-installed. There weren’t three operating light switches on the place. Not to mention that any light bulb within reach had been stolen.
So what did dad and mom see, when they bought this place? Possibilities… I have to think of my parents in a bigger context. They were descendants of farmers. Though the farms on which they grew up had little in common with a dairy farm in Indiana. But my grandparent earned their keep from the soil…soil they owned. My parents left everything behind when they emigrated from the Netherlands in 1948. Everything except a dream. They knew that one day…somehow…they would have their own place. That a day would come and they could point to a corner of the world and say…this is ours…
This broken down wreck of a place must have been to them, a seed. A seed they believed when attended with enough effort and sacrifice could grow to become…their farm.
I worked with them, I witnessed the whole story of “Sunrise Acres”, and I will share a bit of that story with you. This is but the first installment. It is enough to say they did succeed when others had failed. But the story starts before the papers were signed in February 1972. And the next part will tell the story of a young couple’s beginnings.
4–1–2017 (483 Words)