by Steve Peterson
West Sioux Elementary School third graders spent a rainy afternoon on the Rehder farm outside of Hawarden on a tour of the farm’s many operations.
Steve and Jeff Rehder led the tours.
“We have 2,300 acres,” said Jeff Rehder. “An acre is like the size of a football field. The average farm in Iowa is 300 acres, so we’re bigger than average.”
Students learned how a combine works, saw the pigs’ buildings, learned how cattle are fed, how animals are taken care of and the impacts of this year’s drought.
“We normally get 200 bushels an acre from corn but this year because of the drought, it was 20. It takes a lot of capital. Soybeans aren’t as expensive to plant as corn is,” said Jeff Rehder.
“This is a head gate. Here we give cattle shots in the neck. We vaccinate them in the Fall, then 21 days later and 100 days after that,” said Steve.
“We use a magnet so if a cattle eats a part of a wire, it will not get to his heart,” said Steve Rehder of the cattle section.
The Rehder family has been working the land around Cleveland Avenue since 1902 and has gained the Century Farm status. A staff of five works the farm.
“We enjoy showing the farm. It’s good for the city students. There’s less and less students who live on farms,” said Jeff.
“It’s a good thing for the kids. The Farm Bureau did it in the past, too, but we want make sure our students get to see the farm. We show them a pig and tell them that’s where pork comes from and show them a cow and tell them that’s where hamburger comes from and how many hamburgers you can get, about 1,200, according to the Iowa Beef Council,” said Steve Rehder.
Due to the drought the cows are fed less corn and more alternative foods, said Steve.
“We buy the calves at 600 to 700 pounds. Trent (Rehder) and I have about 50 cows,” said Steve, who also sprays crops at the farm.
Tim Schmidt showed students the pig building while Jeff showed the feed grain operation and some equipment.
“Inside the cab of the combine you can monitor the amount of bushels coming in and the moisture. For corn it has to be below 15 and for beans below 13,” said Jeff.
Jeff explained the various pig buildings. Students learned one sow this Winter gave birth to 15 baby pigs.
Jeff explained how the farm’s land is laid out, and that it is terraced and contoured now as opposed to row farming in the old horse-and-buggy days.
Jeff also told students how crops are brought to a grain elevator and what happens there.
Students, some of whom live on farms, enjoyed the day, had their picture taken at the family farm sign, had a treat, then went back to classrooms of teachers Karen Engleman, Sharilyn Buryanek and Katie Pick. While they were there, students also saw some daily operations of the farm in action.
Jeff Rehder said his great-great-grandfather, Jardin, started the farm in 1902.
“He was from Tama County. The price of the ground was cheaper out here but his wife did not want to go to South Dakota so they went three miles from the border. They bought 240 acres — had corn, oats and a lot of alfalfa. He worked the first year all by himself with the horses, then the equipment came by train the second year,” said Jeff.
Albert Rehder, Jardin’s son, managed the farm next. Orville, then George and Merlin worked it in a partnership. Steve and Jeff took over with George Bloom, who left in 2000 and Tim Schmidt was hired. Jeff’s son, Kevin, and nephew, Trent, also work the farm.
In 2002 the Rehders earned their Iowa Century Farm designation and had a celebration of the feat.
“We had 70 to 80 people here, had it catered,” said Jeff.
A new building added this year is a heated shop and office building, which will be good for working on equipment in the Winter.
Jeff, 46, and Steve, 49, both are West Sioux alumni. They took agriculture classes from Whitey Iverson at West Sioux High School in Iverson’s final teaching years. Jeff has a degree in agronomy and animal science from South Dakota State University (SDSU). Schmidt also graduated from SDSU, with a degree in animal science, as did Kevin, with a degree in agronomy.
“You have to stay up with the changing technology. Now it’s working smarter,” said Jeff.
It’s Wintertime soon and for the Rehders, that means coaching basketball for area youth. Some of the buildings double as indoor basketball courts.