Practicing old-school farming

WEST BEND – The farmstead of Lloyd and Mary Hanselman near West Bend, at first glance, resembles many farms scattered across northern Iowa.

But after driving in the yard, taking in the older, well-kept buildings, it isn’t until one visits with the Hanselmans, one asks if modern farming was compared to an ocean, the Hanselman farm would be an island.

Lloyd Hanselman uses farming practices that are mostly unchanged since the 1960s. He plants with a four-row planter, a John Deere 7000 that is plateless.

He cultivates with a front-mounted cultivator.

Hanselman harvested ear corn until 1995, but quit when the person who did his corn shelling went out of business and “It was hard to find help,” he said.

The Hanselmans mowed the road ditches with horses until 1950.

They were threshing until 1952 and baled hay and straw until the late 1980s.

The Hanselman farm has raised hogs and chickens. There was dairying until 1971 and they now have a few beef cows.

Hanselman fed livestock out of a wood silo, emptying it by hand, a pitchfork full at a time.

All of the feed for his livestock was ground on the farm.

Lloyd and Mary Hanselman butchered meat on the site as recently as three years ago, getting a hog from a neighbor. They quit raising hogs in 1990.

Mary Hanselman has a garden and in it are potatoes, winter onions, carrots, rhubarb, tomatoes, peppers, peas, green beans, and asparagus. She cans some and gives away the rest.

She was active outside stacking bales in the barn, working alongside the hired help.

“I wouldn’t have them do anything I wouldn’t do,” she said.

With Lloyd Hanselman using farming methods from 50 years ago, while using today’s seed genetics, what are his yields?

Yields at the Hanselman farm are comparable to his neighbors with 200-bushel-per-acre corn, he said.

Hanselman farms independently and this year took another step in independence by not participating in the farm program.

The Hanselmans have been married 41 years. “This could be my last year of farming,” Hanselman said.

The farm began in 1899 when Fred Hanselman bought 160 acres, then added another 160 acres in 1912.

The house was built in 1924 by Fred Hanselman, Lloyd’s grandfather. The house had running water installed in the 1960s

Fred Hanselman had six children, including Leo, Lloyd’s father.

Leo Hanselman bought the family farm in 1957 and Lloyd bought it in 1998. Century Farm status was awarded in 2012.

Lloyd Hanselman has lived on the farm all his life, with the only exception of six months when he was receiving National Guard training.

The Hanselman farm has been watched by area farmers wanting a chance to add it to their farming operations and gets frequent requests for a chance to know when it is available.

“We’ve had six of them this spring,” said Mary Hanselman.

It doesn’t do any good to ask the Hanselmans for an email address to contact them.

“We don’t have a computer, either,” said Mary Hanselman.