Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

March 8, 2008

Farming tradition

SYRACUSE, Ind. — With nearly 7 inches of snow and ice recently covering each of the fields belonging to Bobeck Farms, Arlen Bobeck of Syracuse had plenty of time to reflect — not only on the farm life his great-grandfather passed down, but the future he leaves to his two sons and their families.

Six generations of Bobecks have worked the fields in the southeastern corner of Elkhart County since the 1880s, and today, few similarities in practice or product remain.

Arlen’s great-grandfather Nels immigrated from Sweden, purchased land and cleared it before sending for his family. Arlen’s grandfather was 7 when he arrived in Indiana, and the operation has expanded since then.

“I can’t imagine what my great-grandfather would think of farming today,” Arlen said. “His farm was 120 acres. We don’t know for sure if he started with all that or not, but his operation was very different than what we do now.”

The practice of “family farming” Arlen described — where every home had livestock and crops to sustain the family as well as product left over to sell for profit — has all but disappeared.

“When I was young, we milked cows, had farrow to finish hogs, sheep, horses and chickens,” Arlen said. “Crop rotation was important with corn, wheat, hay, and we put the animal manure on the fields as fertilizer. That’s the way everyone did it.”

The value of the era Arlen’s father Virgil raised him in, as well as the era of his grandfather and great-grandfather, was the value of community and helping one’s neighbors.

“When I look back, one thing that meant a lot to me and formed my life was that we worked as neighbors. Today, you hardly know your neighbors,” Arlen said. Farming communities were much like extended families years ago.

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