ELLINWOOD – Maybe it is tradition.
Maybe it is a love of the land, the rural landscape and a job well done.
But some of it is out of respect for her father, John DeWerff.
Ruthann Spare didn’t want to see her father’s hard work – or that of her grandparents, Vernon and Marian DeWerff – disappear.
“I realized I wanted to be here,” the 23-year-old woman said. “I just decided this is where I want to be.”
She sat in a tractor on this near 100-degree day, pulling a grain cart as a hired man drove the combine. It’s her second wheat harvest back on the farm – returning soon after she married Aaron Spare in May 2015.
There was a time she didn’t expect to come back to the Barton/Stafford county farm. Her brother, Josh, an engineer, also wasn’t planning to return.
As she came back from college to help on the farm during the summer, she felt something tug at her heart.
She asked her father, “Could I realistically do this, or should I do something else?”
“He said, ‘You can do this,’ “ Ruthann said.
“It’s the lifestyle I enjoyed growing up that I want for my kids,” she said. “I don’t feel like this is what I have to do, but it would be a shame for someone to not take it over after my dad is done. What he built up is a big accomplishment for his lifetime.”
Aaron is an engineer and drives to Seed Research Equipment Solutions in South Hutchinson. He helps on the farm on evenings and weekends.
But, for the most part, it is just Ruthann and Dad on the farm.
She grew up riding the combine and grain cart – sometimes with her mom, Kathy, and sometimes with her father, recalling the story of “my dad changing my diaper in the combine while he was driving it,” she said.
Now she is checking irrigation, taking fertilizer to the field and hauling grain to the elevator, among other chores, along with driving the tractor and grain cart this harvest.
“I’m learning a lot,” she said. “I don’t feel like I know everything I need to know.”
For instance, she wants to be a better mechanic. Her father always said that if you can learn multiple skills and fix it yourself, it will save money.
Her father also taught her other core values that are part of the foundation in her profession.
”Make good decisions.”
”Don’t be comfortable with debt. Work hard to get your debt paid off.”
”Live within your means.”
”When money is tight, buckle down. Don’t buy things you don’t need.”
She added that when corn was $8, they updated equipment. But with the low commodity prices, “we aren’t doing that this year.”
She also recalled how her father would buy a quarter of land, work to pay it off, then buy another quarter.
More wise advice from Dad: “One thing he always says is something a guy told him a long time ago: ‘Buy the good ground, John.’ He took that to heart when buying quarters.”
She also learned a lot from her mom, who jumps in where needed, along with running for parts and delivering meals to the field.
She also has learned from her grandparents, including Grandma Marian.
It’s the first year her grandmother hasn’t helped with harvest. Last year, they joked they were the “pink and pink” team – Ruthann in the combine and Marian running the grain cart.
“I hope to be a lot like her,” Ruthann said. “She grabs every inch of life she can. She grows a big garden, she is in so many activities. She raised five kids on a dairy farm. She is out there working as hard as anyone else. I think that is where I got a lot of my drive from – from her.”
“Bless her heart,” said Marian, who was at the farmhouse near Ellinwood on this afternoon. “Ruthann loves the land, just like I do. I know she will make it.”
Her grandma has her own advice:
“There will be rough times and better ones. The sweat it takes – you have to love it. Those are things we taught (our son), too.”
John, she said, is a good son, a good father and a good farming role model.
She recalls a note her father-in-law, Chester, sent John when he decided to come back to the farm.
“It said, ‘I’m so glad you are becoming a farmer,’ “ Marian said. “It was a tender, tender letter sent to a grandson.”
She feels the same way about Ruthann and her husband. She recalls the feeling sitting with Vernon on the porch during fall harvest.
“It was a bittersweet moment,” she said, as the couple wasn’t in the field that night when the crew came in at about 10:30 p.m. “But it is sweet. God answered my prayers for another generation to come back and take over the farm. There is a time we have to step back and let the next generation. I’m so excited and happy that they are coming back.”
Rains saved this year’s wheat harvest, which was struggling through the winter, Ruthann said, noting it is about average.
Marian repeats a phrase from the local Christian radio station she supports: “Trusting the Lord of the harvest.”
Someday, Marian said, they’ll leave the farm, and Ruthann and Aaron will move into the farmhouse.
The couple’s marriage tree already is planted in the yard, Marian said.