Story by Robyn Scherer, M.Agr.
Photos courtesy of Paul Herman

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May 6, 2013
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A century of changes

To many, a century can seem like a very long time. To Floyd Herman, it’s his lifetime. The 100-year-old from Wilbur, Neb., has seen many changes in the last 100 years, including those in agriculture.

Herman was raised in Wilbur, where he first found his love for farming. “I was raised with one foot on the farm and one foot in the town. I spent more time on the farm than in town, but I wasn’t raised on the farm,” he said.

He added, “I loved the farm. I would have been out of school and on the farm if I could have.”

However, after finishing school, he did not return to the farm, at least not at first. “I pursued three or four different endeavors. At 40, I finally got to the farm and have been there ever since. I’ve been here 60 years, which is about as long as anyone else who does farming. I’ve raised chickens, ducks, pigs, cows and grain. I’ve had hay to make as well. I’ve done everything that anyone does on the farm,” he stated.

He was one of the first to grow soybeans in the area, and his first crop he had to haul more than 60 miles to find an elevator that would accept it.

He has a true love for the land, and has enjoyed seeing the advancements that agriculture has made. “I remember when they were working on how to make a 100 bushel year for corn at the university. I was making 135 bushels at that time, so I told them when you talk about 200 bushels then I’ll be interested. Now on this farm we produce about 235 bushels. It’s come a long ways in the last 60 years,” Herman said.

He continued, “The biggest change is the machinery, however, and the knowledge of how they make new crops and so on. It’s a total change. Our corn varieties have been changed to accommodate our water, hot weather, winds and all kinds of things.”

He understands the challenges that come with this increased production as well. “When you are producing that kind of yield, you are also taking some constituents out of the soil that you aren’t replacing. I see that as one of our problems in the next 10-15 years. We won’t be able to maintain that kind of production, unless we can bring in the rocks that have those minor constituents,” he explained.

He also worries about water use, especially in times like a drought. “Everyone has gone to irrigating in these last years. I’ve complain to the university about having research on water use, and now they do. That’s the kind of stuff I’ve been involved in,” he said.

In his early years, he performed on vaudeville, served in the military and represented the U.S. in the world-wide Sokol slet (Olympic-type competition) in 1932 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. There, he was selected to carry the American flag into the stadium at the opening ceremonies.

“It was wonderful experience of course,” he said. “I turned 20 during the festival that they had there, and was one of many people from all over the world.”

After the games, he traveled around Europe for two months with his uncle, who was an international lawyer. “He knew the language, and the places, and it was a wonderful experience,” Herman said.

He continued, “My uncle had an office in the hotel in Switzerland, and it was right on the lake. The hotel manager had his headquarters there, so he insisted that he take us to his home across the lake. He showed us a new car that was a Chrysler that had automatic transmission. We didn’t have that here until about two years after that. Sometimes we think we are way ahead of everyone else but that isn’t always the case.”

Herman was honored as the recipient of the 2012 Seventh Generation Award, presented by The Center for Rural Affairs.

The Seventh Generation Award is a lifetime service award presented to an individual who has made major contributions to improving rural life and protecting our land and water.

According to Chuck Hassebrook, Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director, Herman has been a long-time Center for Rural Affairs supporter, Initiative 300 veteran and major contributor to the Center for Rural Affairs Granary endowment fund.

“We worked very hard for Initiative 300,” said Herman. “And we proved that when farmers get together and work together, they can out-do the big companies. When Marty Strange came and started the Center For Rural Affairs, we made a big jump as far as farmers working together. I have followed that work ever since. Keep it up.”

“Floyd is salt of the earth and an inspiration to anyone lucky enough to visit him,” added Hassebrook.

Even though he no longer farms, he still lives on the farm, and spends time every day learning. “I do a lot of reading and a lot of studying,” he said.

One thing that he hasn’t lost is his affection for his favorite animal, the duck. “I liked the ducks better than anything else. In the early days when I was a kid, we raised call ducks that were used as decoys to hunt wild ducks. As a youngster, my pets were some of the pets we used for decoys. That’s why I like ducks,” he said. ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 02:50PM Published May 20, 2013 11:32AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.