Putting up hay is still fun for two men in their 70s who've been doing it for 60 years and can't get farming out of their blood.
Herb Boecker, 75, and Mark Fehringer, 73, both from Bloomfield, NE, are “retired” farmers who rake hay for Nolan Poppe of Poppe Hay Farms.
“They are the most dependable help you can find,” says Poppe, who raises alfalfa on 1,500 acres owned, leased and bought in the windrow near Bloomfield.
“I have them raking hay all summer long and they act like they can't get enough of it. They are cautious, patient and, most of all, experienced. They know when it is time to rake and when it isn't. I don't worry about them being reckless or careless with the equipment. It helps that they know where the fields are located and know most everyone we put up hay for.”
Boecker and Fehringer rake close to 800-1,000 acres four times a year, Poppe estimates.
The men have much in common; both grew up on farms, came from large families and raised their own large broods. And each has put up hay for more than 60 years.
Boecker, who was 14 when he quit school to help on the farm, recalls mowing hay with horses.
“We raked and stacked hay with horses. Come fall, we hand-pitched the stacks on hay wagons and moved them on the place. When it was time to feed the stock, we pitched the hay off into feed racks. Now when we rake a field of hay it is often baled and loaded on semis and sitting in a shed before morning. Things have sure changed.”
Fehringer, too, put up hay the old-fashioned way. “I've spent my whole life on the farm except for the two years I was in the Army,” he says. “There is no better place to be.
“I have raked hay for Poppe for about six years and also chase gophers for him, which keeps me pretty busy,” he says. “I like the early hours; I'm a morning person and the farming hours work for me. We start about the middle of May most years and often work putting up hay till the first of October.”
Both men love being outside and enjoy the equipment. “The machinery is all hydraulic and easy to move,” Fehringer says.
“I would do most anything to be out on the farm,” Boecker adds. “I especially enjoy driving the new tractors; the seats are like sitting in a rocking chair.”
“I guess you can take the hay out of the field,” Fehringer sums up, “but you can't take these two old grandpas out of the hayfield.”