Farmers were facing an unclear outlook for the future when Larry and Joanne Lindberg married in 1967. With over 50 years in their rearview mirror, the Lindbergs, as well as their sons Troy and Todd, faced challenges familiar to anyone who has made a life as a steward of the soil.
“The minute you get a crop planted, you start to wonder if you’ll get enough rain or if it will end up a decent crop — but that’s just being a farmer,” Larry Lindberg said. “It’s a way of life and it’s been a good life for us.”
The Lindbergs’ nomination as the 2019 Neosho County Farm Family of the Year is a reflection of their past farming successes, as well as their resilience in the face of tragedy and their commitment to community.
At the height of their farming operation, Larry and Todd Lindberg farmed around 1,200 acres together, while Troy ran his own cattle operation and worked as a mechanic. In 2017, the Lindberg family suffered a loss that changed their lives and the future of the farm.
“When Todd passed away, the luster of what we had been doing just kind of fell away,” Lindberg said.
Quickly, the Lindberg family’s plans changed from transitioning the farm from father to son, to Larry and Joanne transitioning into retirement.
“We’ve always been involved in our church and community and retiring has given us time to prioritize those things,” Lindberg said. “I think a key to planning retirement is to move yourself to firm financial footing, know your limitations and find ways to remain involved.”
For Lindberg, those outlets have come in the form of serving as a board member for community organizations, being active in church functions and helping maintain rural cemeteries.
Time in a tractor leaves farmers with a lot of time to reminisce, analyze and strategize. For Lindberg, using those times for future planning rather than worrying made a difference in the longevity of both his farm and his life.
“Stress is a factor that can cause you to age really quickly,” Lindberg said. “It is a factor in anything you do but you have to manage it so you can be comfortable.”
In recent years, well-yielding crops have allowed producers in the area to let go of some of their anxiety while pricing still remains difficult, Lindberg said.
“We’ve been fortunate the last few years to have good crops even though we haven’t had the greatest prices,” Lindberg said. “You’ve still got to keep your eye on the bottom line.”
While it’s a challenging time to be a farmer, Lindberg said nothing compares to the obstacles his family, like so many others, faced in the 1980s.
“The ‘80s were not fun at all,” Lindberg said. “I had to do something because we had a family to support, so I got a job with the city of Chanute and Joanne got a job with the Stark post office and we made it through.”
Lindberg’s sons took over most of the day-to-day farming operations until he could retire after 24 years of working his off-farm job. While the conditions were difficult, living through that era taught a lot of lessons about the importance of family on the farm and financial stability.
“Inflation was a big problem in the 1980s and everyone thought you could borrow yourself rich,” Lindberg said. “Obviously, you can’t do that and you never will but the stigma to get big and buy more land sucked in a lot of people.”
For Lindberg, the lessons learned throughout the 1980s absolutely apply to young producers in the industry today.
“You have to have a real desire, a real love, to jump into something like farming,” Lindberg said. “If you’re just starting farming, I would say start small and don’t try to farm or own the whole county all at once.”
As a young farmer himself, Lindberg saw a lot of changes come to southeast Kansas through the years, notably soybeans’ rise to prominence as a cash crop.
“I remember the first time we ever planted soybeans was on the fourth of July with my dad and they were Clark soybeans,” Lindberg said. “If you got a yield of 20 bushels per acre, we were on top of the world so we’ve come a long way.”
By and far, Lindberg said he doesn’t see an end to the changes and improvements possible for farmers in the future.
“I’m amazed at the technology, that is available today,” Lindberg said. “Precision planting and using satellites are just the beginning of the new ways we have to use technology and we probably haven’t seen the end of it yet.”
While the legacy the Lindberg family is leaving on Neosho County is always changing, he said he’s always glad he chose to leave his mark through farming.
“Farming is a lifestyle all its own,” Lindberg said. “At the end of the day if you’re still happy with what you’re doing, then you’ve made the right decision.”