There’s definitely value in tradition
POCAHONTAS — Genevieve Schoon said she and her late husband, Ernie, looked forward to the time when their farm would reach the status of Century Farm and they could apply for the award.
All of that happened, but unfortunately, without Ernie.
Schoon said her husband passed away in 2016, but she decided to honor him and the farm and received their family’s Century Farm award along with 12 other family members.
“Ernie took pride in that he was able to be the third generation to keep the land in the family, the farm where he grew up,” she said.
The farm, located 2 ¢ miles north of Palmer, was purchased by Ernie’s grandparents, Rolf and Etta Schoon.
According to Schoon, Rolf came to America when he was 21 years old from Grossefehn, Germany, settling in Eureka, Illinois, in 1886.
“Some say he came with 25 cents in his pocket,” she said.
Rolf worked for a farmer in the Eureka, Illinois, area until 1909 when he had learned there was land in Iowa for sale. Schoon said he and his wife, Etta, made their way to Pocahontas County and purchased 160 acres and eventually moved their family and all of their possessions to their new farm.
Around 1916, Rolf and Etta bought seven, 80 acre farms in Section 22, 23 and 27 in Lincoln Township, one 80 acre piece for each of his children that they would eventually inherit.
Schoon said to this day, six of those farms are still owned by family members.
One of Rolf and Etta’s children, Egbert “Ed” Schoon, and his wife, Lizzie, would move onto their designated farm in 1938. Ed and Lizzie were parents to Schoon’s late husband, Ernie, and LeRoy Schoon.
Schoon said their farm included a small two-story house, a barn, a crib and several other buildings. One of those buildings was referred to as “Ed’s shed.”
This is where Ed would tinker and perform little repair jobs.
“It was the type of shop where others had a hard time finding anything and Ed knew exactly where to find it,” she said.
Schoon said Ed worked the fields and tended to the animals while Lizzie cared for their two sons, the house, her garden and chickens.
“You could go to her house anytime and she could prepare a meal,” she said. “She kept a nice farm house and the family was always neat and clean. She always said ‘soap and water don’t cost much.'”
After Lizzie passed away, Ed remained on the farm for a few more years until he made the decision to retire and rent the farm out.
By this time, both Ernie and LeRoy had already moved off of their family’s farm and started their own careers.
“Neither of the sons were interested in farming,” said Schoon. “Ernie and I were married and living in Pocahontas with a good business, Schoon Tree Service. LeRoy was also married and had the business of Schoon Construction in Cherokee.”
Although Ernie didn’t farm his family’s ground, when the farm was passed to him and LeRoy, he took the chance to buy his brother’s half.
“He wanted it to stay in the family,” she said. “He was proud to be the third generation to own the land.”
Although Ernie’s parents had made improvements to the buildings, they had done very little to the land, Schoon said.
“Ernie was interested in making the land better,” she said. “He planted a row of evergreens as a windbreak along the west side of the farm to stop wind erosion. More drainage tile was put into the ground in wet areas by our son Roger who is in the tiling business.”
A grass waterway, Schoon said, was also put in where the land had washed away and more recently, a buffer strip was put along each side of the dredge that runs across the corner of the property.
Schoon said she is pleased their tenant has cared for the land and maintains those conservation efforts.
“A good tenant is a farm’s best asset,” she said.
Schoon said she hopes at least one of their four children will be able to hold on to the family farm.
“I would like to see one of them buy it,” she said. “I would like for them to see the value. It’s something to say about carrying on the tradition.”