As a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother of farmers, Dean Huffaker has her fair share of experiences. “We had one little irrigation well, and we had to water through ditches,” said Dean Huffaker as she recalled a lifetime of farming that had not been talked about in years. Over the years, she has seen many changes in farming, but one thing that has not changed is the families themselves.
Where it all started
As Dean began to think back, she explained that her parents gathered maize with knives and threw the maize into a wagon where Dean and her brother would stack it.
“No one today could have realized what we were using for equipment,” said Dean.
We would have to cook for the workers who gathered the broomcorn, said Dean as she continued to remember all of the things that her and her mother did for her father’s farm. Growing up in farming, it was a natural transition when Dean married a farmer she met at Texas Tech. They started out with little, but they made it work.
“We were newlyweds and it didn’t matter. We farmed with borrowed equipment and $1,500 we borrowed from the bank.”
When Dean and her late husband, Donald, started farming, they had 80 acres, a $1,500 farm loan, and borrowed two-row equipment. They watered with ditches, and the best method for stopping the water in a broken ditch, according to Dean, was to stand in it while her husband threw dirt around her feet.
“Everything has changed so much,” said Dean.
Over the years, Dean and Donald acquired more land and equipment and continued to grow their farming operation. Eventually, Dean’s husband bought out her father and continued working the land with his son. Today, her grandson runs most of the farm. Dean said that there is a clear reason why the farm was continually passed down.
“Its in his blood,” she said.
We farmed with borrowed equipment and $1,500 we
borrowed from the bank. Dean Huffaker
Where they are today
Dean is not the only one who believes that. Dena Huffaker is Dean’s granddaughter in-law. Dena said her husband would always farm.
“It’s in his blood, and he will never sell any of this,” said Dena.
While this has stayed the same, times have changed.
“Everything has changed,” said Dena. “The prices of equipment, the practices, and all technology have changed.“
“When I was growing up, we didn’t have pivots. We had ditches and pipe that had to be laid. We also had lots of water, and that has changed a lot. Now we have gone from ditches, to metal pipe, to poly pipe, to pivots. And that’s not to mention drip irrigation.”
Dena married into the Huffaker family in 1999 and was also raised on a farm. Growing up, she can remember the three-seated sprayer they used to spray the crops. When she got married, they had a slightly larger sprayer with only one seat and pedals you steered with. Now, they use a giant spray rig with sensors and GPS.
“Pretty much all of our machines have GPS,” said Dena.
The Huffaker’s have seen commodity prices change through the years as well.
“Labor cost, employee taxes, and seed have gone through the roof,” said Dena. “Today, you get a $50,000 bill and that is just for one month.”
As Dena thought about Dean’s stories, she laughed at the initial loan that started the family farm.
“That wouldn’t even cover a bag of seed,” said Dena with a smile. “Today the loans are more like $800,000 for some people.”
She acknowledged that some people think the trick is to get more land, but she believes it is all about how you manage it.
What has not changed
One thing has not changed, and that is what it takes to be a farming family. Both Dean and Dena shared stories about supporting their farmers.
“You just have to really be there for each other,” said Dena. “That’s why God made a man and a woman.”
Dean said you had to be a certain kind of woman to be a farmer’s wife. She talked about the schedule that goes with farming and the responsibilities to children and family that were required to keep everyone where they needed to be.
“Its not always an easy life, said Dean. “You don’t have income coming in regularly and not until the end of the year many times. Other times not even then.”
Dena said faith was the key.
“We always just fight for it and have been very blessed to have made it through when a lot of people didn’t,” she said.
Dena and Dean both kept the books for their husbands and continue to support their farms in any way that they can. Dena has two children and her oldest son helps on the farm during the summer.
When asked if he would farm, Dena responded,
“I don’t thing that he will, but it’s in his blood.”