Langdon , MISSOURI, October 9, 2004 -- CropChoice
news) -- Terry Anderson, Bullseye Midwest News:
Rick Oswald is a self-admitted farmaholic.
A trip last March for Oswald and his wife, Linda, included
attending the final arguments in the Picket v. IBP trial
in Montgomery, Ala.
"My wife puts up with me," he smirked while
he maneuvered his six-row combine through a field of
She's done that for more than 35 years; they were married
right out of high school.
Rick has never lived in another house. When Rick and
Linda got married, his parents moved out and Linda moved
And, from a quarter section of land, they and son Brandon
now farm about 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans in the
fertile Missouri River valley in northwest Missouri
Rick isn't college educated - "I maybe should
have taken the time," he said. "I managed
to not get drafted; otherwise, college would have been
in Vietnam ."
But he has stayed on top of the massive technical and
government changes that have taken place in agriculture.
His first combine was one that two previous owners
thought they had worn out. Of course, that was better
than the mules his dad used.
Rick said his dad lived long enough to see field monitor
equipment but died a year before Roundup Ready soybeans
"I think he saw more technical changes than we
have," Rick said. "And Brandon is more open
to new things and different ways of doing things."
Although harvesting in a temperature-controlled combine
cab is good, Rick isn't necessarily convinced the technical
changes are all good.
"Biotechnology has done more to enhance the corporate
profits. We just have higher operating costs," he
said. "And they've enabled machinery to replace a
lot of farmers.
"When I started, we
averaged 240, maybe 260 acres. When you take our
acres now and divide by the two of us, it's still
1,000 acres apiece.
I've replaced five farmers, not that I wanted
"The biggest corn head used to be four rows, now
I have a six, next year I'll have an eight. When I started,
we averaged 240, maybe 260 acres. When you take our
acres now and divide by the two of us, it's still 1,000
"I've replaced five farmers, not that I wanted
Rick said they started planting Roundup Ready soybeans
two years ago. Although yields have been good and more
consistent because of weed control, he said the top-end
yields haven't improved.
The government has programs, he said, "because
they want production, and that's what they get. But
everything is geared toward the large producer.
"If the government wanted a lot of farmers, it
would cut payments. If we had a government in place
to preserve the rural community, it would be more toward
the individual farmer. That's the opposite of the way
it's done now."
Rick and Brandon both see more organic food production
in the future.
"People are willing to spend more for it, for
health reasons," said Brandon, who has a 40-cow
herd where he lives about six miles north of his parents.
In its third year, the crossbred cows are paired with
registered Angus bulls. Brandon said he sees a good
future for the operation, partly because he thinks it's
less risky than buying feeder cattle.
He can also take advantage of some niche marketing
with organic beef, and supports the pending Country
of Origin Labeling legislation.
"If I grow and produce it, I'm proud of that,"
he said. "It's a benefit to all of us, though there
are some people who say the opposite."
||"If the government wanted
a lot of farmers, it would cut payments. If we had
a government in place to preserve the rural community,
it would be more toward the individual farmer. That's
the opposite of the way it's done now."
Brandon also has followed his father's footsteps by
being elected to the Rock Port school board. He is working
on a plan for a countywide rural water system, too.
Brandon, 32, and his wife, Kathy, have four sons and
His older brother, Tim, 35, is manager of a grain import
elevator in Houston . His son Ryan, 9, lives with Rick
Their daughter, Amanda, 29, and her husband Chad live
a couple of miles away in a pre-Civil War brick home.
While on the school board, Rick was president for six
years, during a major construction project. He currently
serves on the rural road board and is active with Farmers
Linda, when not busy on the farm, is active in church
work and with family and friends.
One of Rick's enjoyments is writing, in particular
opinion letters to publications. He said he's still
waiting to get published in the New York Times.
But the center of his life, he said, is his family
and the traditions carried on by multiple generations
around Langdon, a one-time flourishing resort town on
the Nishna-botna River.
"I'm proud to live here and proud of the children
for staying here," he said. "If we had followed
the government corporate model, we'd have been shipped
Rick farms land in the fifth generation. Brandon rents
sixth-generation land from his cousins. Rick said there's
value in traditions set by families who helped organize
towns and build roads.
"To me, it's an anchor that this nation is in
danger of losing," he said. It's like those things
don't matter anymore, but I think they do."