In 1884, my great Grandpa Johann decided he wanted to emigrate to the US from Langnau, Switzerland. They had 4 kids and they sent over the oldest son to check it out. He was 19 at the time. He went first and sent a letter back home to tell the rest of the family that this is a good place to live and that they should all come. The rest of the family came over by boat on a 6-week journey. After a while of living here, they found this farm for sale. My great grandpa, who changed his name to John when he was here, bought it with 320 acres. I think the main driving force of them coming here was their pioneer spirit and the Land-Grant opportunity at that time. 

The oldest son Albert was going to take over the farm, but he died so Ernst took it over. Ernst was my grandpa. In 1900, he married a teacher and I think she dedicated herself to the family shortly after they got married. Ernst had pigs, laying hens, and he principally milked short-horn cattle. We are guessing that he milked 20-25 cows. Everything was done by hand and with horses, including all the crops. Early planting corn was done by using a hand tool, one step at a time. Ernst bought the first tractor and my dad bought tractors and more equipment like a combine and a corn picker. When I look at our farm, it is interesting how things have evolved over the generations.

There were 4 of us kids growing up and we all helped out. After chores, I remember the freedom of cooling off by riding my bike on the country road near home. My dad probably figured that if he had 3 sons, one of them would take over the farm. I imagine he was disappointed that one of us didn’t take it over right way, but I also think he probably understood farming was changing. Our cropland was separate from the house and there wasn’t an easy way to get there up on the bluff. It took time and time was money. Back in the day, you had more time and things started to change when I was of the age to take over the farm.

I interrupted college to join the Peace Corps in India. We started a cooperative to manufacture little implements for gardens and fields. By helping them, I experienced the basics of Industrial Engineering. When I came back, I finished college. After getting married, I went to Racine to work for J.I. Case and lived there with my young family. After 11 years, there were opportunities to move into upper management and I realized that I was not interested in that and I didn’t want to live in an industrial city anymore. At that point, my dad was a scaled down farmer; he was sharecropping with a neighbor and was rai