In 1993 Rod and Jackie Beyer had a decision to make. They could continue on with their jobs, or they could buy the family farm from Rod’s dad, Roger Beyer.
Both said it was a huge decision, one not to be taken lightly. Both grew up on farms, so they knew the time commitment they would be making if they bought the farm.
“Going from working a city job, or a normal job, what most people think of, to working seven days a week, 365 days a year job [was a lot to consider],” Jackie said. “But we felt it was a really good way to raise a family.”
Now, 20 years later, they are still farming, and have raised three children on the farm. They have two daughters, Rachel and Rebecca, who have already moved away from home, and one son, Aaron, who is a senior at Little Wolf High School in Manawa.
The original homestead that got the Beyer family started in farming was purchased from the United States government by August Beyer in 1872, Jackie said. August came to the United States from Germany.
August then sold the farm to his son, Edward. Edward sold it to his brother, Rudolph. When Rudolph died, his wife, Martha, took ownership. Martha then sold the farm to her grandson, Roger Beyer in 1954. Roger ran the farm until he sold it to Rod and Jackie in 1993.
Some may think it was just natural for Rod to take over the family farm, but he said that wasn’t the case. He said his brother was farming with his dad, but the brother didn’t want to take over the farm.
“My dad decided he didn’t want to do it anymore,” Rod said. “My brother, he didn’t want to be the boss, he just wanted to work with somebody. We decided we’d give it a shot and we’ve been here ever since.”
Jackie said being their own boss was a major reason they decided to purchase the farm.
“Being your own boss is really the big thing,” Jackie said. “You are running a business. You are not working, answering to somebody else. We’re making the decisions on the management and the direction we decide it’s going to go.”
In the years before purchasing the farm Rod said he spent a lot of time during the week helping on the farm. For a couple of months he milked cows in the morning, went to his regular job, only to return to the farm to milk cows each evening. He admitted that got to be too much, and it helped them realize if they were going to farm, they had to concentrate on farming.
“We both knew if we were going to farm, we were just going to farm,” Jackie said. “We are not going to try and work jobs besides.”
Currently there are around 145 head of cattle on the farm, including 85 milk cows, he said.
A lot has changed in farming since Rod’s childhood days growing up on the farm. He said almost everything was done by hand when he was a kid.
Technology may have changed over the years, but many of the same challenges remain – weather conditions, long hours and financial strains – just to name a few.
“We’re probably a little frugal and went without some of the stuff a lot of people take for granted,” Rod said, about how the family has made it through some of the lean years.
He said the family didn’t take many trips or vacations.
Jackie added, “When we were young we did as much work as we could so we saved on labor. That was always our theory from the beginning. As much as we can do, we did. When things started getting a little bit easier we were able to hire some help here and there. That all helps.”
Currently they have two employees who help milk cows. Rod’s dad, who is 79 years old, still helps when he can, driving tractor and doing field work, Jackie said.
“He likes to be out here,” she said.
The family was honored at the 2012 Wisconsin State Fair for their Century Farm. The Century Farm and Home Award Program began in 1948. The program honors families who have had continuous ownership of their Wisconsin farm or home for 100 years or more. The Beyers were not able to attend the program at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Rod said he and his wife started researching the history of the farm last year and decided to apply for the Century Farm honor.
“We’re getting to the age now where we are thinking what do we want to do and I don’t think our son is going to want to take the farm over,” Rod said.
“It’s important to us that in this decision we still want to keep it in the name because that would be a shame to throw that all away,” Jackie said. “It is a big deal and it’s something we want to try and keep reserved when we make our decision to retire.”
Even if it doesn’t stay a dairy farm, they said they want at least the original homestead to stay in the family.
“We always said we didn’t have our kids to be the heir apparent,” Jackie said. “This business, you really have to like doing this or you’re not going to make it. If you don’t like it, when times get lean, it’s really easy to walk away from it. We’ve never told the kids they have to take it over.”
Whatever the future holds, Rod and Jackie are happy they have been able to keep continue the family tradition for so long.
“You go back to the 1800s [with the history of this farm], a lot of stuff has happened since then,” Rod said. “That’s one thing that probably very few farms have.”