1984 - Volume #8, Issue #5, Page #18[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Young Farmers Operate With Live Horsepower
That's right ù 1984. The Door County, Wis., teenage brothers started using horses two years ago when they decided to try their hand at farming.
"One day, Steve and I asked Mom and Dad if we could get a riding horse," Dennis recalled. "Two weeks later we bought another riding horse." That was four years ago when Dennis was 13 and Steve was 11.
Two years later they bought their first team. "I really liked them (riding horses) so I decided I wanted a team," Dennis said. "We paid $3,000 for the first team, but the horse price is way down now."
A desire to farm with the intention to keep capital investments low was one reason why the two brothers decided to use horses.
"We wanted to get started on our own, but we had to use our own money and it takes $20,000 to $30,000 to buy a tractor," Dennis explained. "It takes $2,000 to $3,000, plus machinery, to get started with horses. It takes twice as long to get the work done, but it's fun."
Lack of experience on their part and a high spirited team led to all sorts of problems for the two Southern Door High School students. "We started dragging with them to try and break them for pulling but they began to run away all the time," Dennis said. "We were green ourselves so, in the fall of 1982, we traded our first team for another team owned by Levi and Elmer Yoder, a couple of Amish farmers near Amherst, Wis.
"In the winter of 1982, both of us decided we liked working with horses so we bought another team from Sam Borntrager another Amish farmer in Amherst," Dennis said. "During the winter about all we did was haul manure and take sleigh rides."
In the spring of 1983 almost all of the 80 acres of field work including dragging, seeding, planting corn, cutting and hauling hay was done with the horses.
"When we had one team, we were using the tractor. But now with two teams we hardly ever use it except to bale hay and do some late fall plowing," Dennis said.
This year they are farming 120 acres, 35 of which are oats, seven are corn and the remaining acres are in pasture and alfalfa.
Finding machinery that could be hooked up to a team of horses was a problem at first. But, through neighbors checking out their junk piles, going to auctions and acquiring by "word of mouth," the brothers have accumulated enough machinery to use and get parts from.
The boys father, Ron, a retired dairy farmer, has seen a change in the boys since they began using the horses to farm.
"Dennis gets off the tractor tired and grouchy but when he gets off the horses he seems satisfied," Mr. Englebert said. "He seems contented."
Pat Englebert, the brother's mother, had some reservations about them getting into farming with horses. "At 15-years-old I thought Dennis and Steve wouldn't stick with it. I think Dennis will stick with it but Steve is still young," she said.
"Some of my friends think I'm nuts farming with horses," Dennis said. "Some of the older neighbors think I'm crazy. One neighbor felt sorry for me so he came over with his tractor and helped me plow."
Dropping out of high school athletics to work with his horses is something that Dennis doesn't regret.
"I enjoy sports, but I found something I enjoy more and I know Dad enjoys watching us and taking a few turns himself," Dennis said.
While he wouldn't say how long or whether or not he would continue farming with horses, Dennis said that he would "always have horses."
(Reprinted with permission from County Today).
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