Randy Harder’s two donkeys are like midwives.
If one of his cows is about to give birth, they let Harder know.
“If it is a calm evening and the cows are here by the house, I can hear them braying,” said Harder with a chuckle.
Randy and Jane Harder have been involved in agriculture their entire married life. They raise 80 cow/calf pairs, along with putting up hay. Harder Farms also has a pasture and range land management business, which includes everything from clearing trees to mowing.
And Jane, for more than 20 years, has been executive director of Reins of Hope, a therapeutic riding program in Reno County.
On this day they led their daughter, 27-year-old Katelyn, on horseback around the farm. They talk about how the agriculture lifestyle and raising their two children – including their 31-year-old son Brandon – on the farmstead near Haven has been a blessing.
Randy has multiple generations of farming in his blood. Both his grandparents farmed or had cattle. His father had a small cattle operation.
“Dad didn’t have enough for me so I helped them,” said Randy. But he loved the profession. He began helping Buhler-area farm couple Norman and Dellis Dick as a youngster.
“Norman always had Simmental cattle and it stuck,” he said of his own herd that started about 30 years ago.
Up until he retired two years ago, Randy has been farming and raising cattle between his work at Kansas Gas Co. Meanwhile, for the past 25 years, he has had the pasture management business. His son Brandon joined in when he was 14, even purchasing his own skid loader.
It was shortly before giving birth to their daughter Katelyn that the Dan Bontrager farm came up for sale.
The Harders already had cattle around the place and they went to church with the Bontragers.
It worked out perfectly, said Jane of the timing, noting the farm has helped their daughter.
Katelyn has a seizure disorder and communicates through gestures and signing. Horses are part of her everyday life, said Jane. It’s how Jane got involved with Reins of Hope – which brings positive experiences to youth and adults with mental and physical disabilities.
“Katie couldn’t communicate at all after she got sick, and the only time we could calm her was on horseback,” said Jane.
She sees the difference it has made in the lives of youth and adults. Earlier this month, she watched a “very challenged child” put his hand over his heart after he listened to a veteran speak at the center.
“I’m passionate about what I do,” said Jane, noting all the benefits she sees each day in the program’s more than 150 clients. “It really does make a difference in their lives.”
Brandon, now director of governmental affairs and communications for Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, said his parents have worked hard for everything they have and they have employed a number of young people and Hutchinson Community College students “who they welcomed into their home like family.”
The Harders couldn’t imagine another lifestyle or occupation. Randy added he wouldn’t keep the cattle if he wasn’t passionate about them.
It’s rewarding, he said. His goal is to have good, healthy calves.
“I just like being out here with them, taking care of them,” he said.