Kratchmer Century Farm Handles the Changing Times

posted on Thursday, September 10, 2020


What does it take to keep a family farm in the family for over a century?

“A lot of hard work and dedication is the easiest way to sum it up. There have been good times and rough times,” said Keith Kratchmer, whose farm was recently recognized as a Century Farm by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Keith is also the Chief Environmental Compliance Officer for Iowa Select Farms .

Keith’s Century Farm was established in 1906, when 80 acres were purchased by Keith Kratchmer’s great grandfather, Dode Wright. “He was already in the community and he purchased this addition to his farming operation,” Kratchmer said.

At the time of this addition, the family already was farming 160 acres, which were recognized as a Century Farm in 1994.

The 80-acre farm was passed down to daughter Edna Kratchmer, and from her to Martin Kratchmer, then Eldon Kratchmer, and is currently owned by Eldon’s son, Keith Kratchmer, who lives on the farm, keeping the family tradition alive.

Today, 10 acres are used for hay and pasture for Kratchmer’s cattle. The remainder of the 80 acres is rented out as crop ground for corn and beans.

He remembers his dad, Eldon, purchased the land in 1976.

“As far back as I know, it was a dairy operation. They raised Brown Swiss cattle,” Kratchmer said.

The family continued milking dairy cows until 1980.

“Between the two farms, there was always livestock. We raised hogs, and beef cattle, and we’ve still got beef cattle on the 80 where we live-the Century Farm,” Kratchmer said.

Growing up on the farm, he never was very involved with sports; instead, he showed his beef cattle in 4-H and was involved in FFA. After school, he milked cows and helped his family with crop farming.

“I enjoyed working on the farm,” Kratchmer said.

The 1980s were tough years. Funds were tight.

“We continued to work hard, and we had a very good relationship with the local lender that supported us and believed we were on the right path, and we stayed with it,” said Kratchmer.

Diversifying was a great help when it came to staying afloat.

“I had dairy cattle, and also added a farrow to finish swine operation. We transitioned from dairy to hogs and maintained beef cattle,” Kratchmer said. “Diversity is one of those things that may have helped us survive over the years.”

In 1985, Kratchmer brought in a trailer home and built a windbreak and a cattle shed. By 1990, a home was built on the 80-acre farm.

“I’ve learned what it takes to start up a place of your own, and have that fulfillment,” Kratchmer said. “I started a beef herd when I was a sophomore in high school. That has been maintained for 40 years now in the cattle business. I’ve raised purebred Simmental for some time, and we still have them today. We just raise cows and calves and feed out calves, as many as we can, and sell them to the locker and to friends and family who want good, quality beef.”

Growing up on the farm, he learned the value of hard work, honesty, determination, self-worth, and loyalty.

“The work ethic that we gained was basically a requirement (on the farm). I think honesty is a virtue in anything that you’re involved with,” Kratchmer said. “With honesty comes a reputation and morals, and those are values that I have taken into business.”

He looks for that same work ethic in potential employees today.

“I’m now in a position where I hire people, and if we have the opportunity to hire a person with a farming background, that is my top qualification,” Kratchmer said. “I know they’re going to be hardworking, have a strong work ethic, and going to be honest. People raised in a rural community are a very valuable asset.”

Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill said it is an honor for the Farm Bureau to co-sponsor the Century Farm program, recognizing the multi-generational farm families who have withstood countless challenges over the years.

“Agriculture has long been the backbone of Iowa’s economy and critical to the vitality of rural communities across the state,” Hill said.

The Century Farms Program was established to recognize Iowa’s family owned farms that have been passed down for 100 years.

“When you consider the inherent risks that farmers assume every day, the ’80 recession, and the current trade concerns, it is incredible to think of the challenges these families had to overcome to keep their farms for 100 or 150 years,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “The Century and Heritage Farm program celebrates these families for their tenacity and dedication to agriculture.”

This article was originally written by the Clarksville Star.