By Amy Bickel, Hutchinson News
It's more than just about a career.
For Craig and Sheila Knoche, farming is a passion - steeped in a good work ethic, tradition and morals.
But most of all, it's about family.
This is a family farm that, at present, employs three generations of Knoches. Craig's father, 82-year-old Darwin still farms and drives the trucks and combines at harvest. His mother, Margie, cooks the meals with the help of Sheila. Craig and Sheila's daughter, Hannah, helps in the kitchen, as well, and 20-year-old son Steven is easing into the operation - hoping someday soon to farm full time with his dad.
"I was born and raised on the farm," said Craig as he and his family sat around the kitchen table at their home on the outskirts of Abbyville. "Farming is the only thing I ever really wanted to do."
The farm is steeped in tradition. His grandfather started the Reno County operation in the 1940s, but died in a farm accident. That's when Darwin and his brother Farrell took over the operation as teenagers.
The Hutchinson News reports that Craig grew up on the farm and helped on the farm while driving a truck. In 2000, he joined the family operation full time.
"Dad and Farrell were getting to the age, needed more help," Craig said. "I decided it was time for me to come back and go into partnership with them."
His uncle harvested his last wheat crop last year and Craig bought him out - helping pave the way for Steven.
But as any farmer will attest - it's not easy. They have battled inclement weather, including drought, in recent years. Moreover, current commodity prices aren't at break-even levels. Input costs, including chemicals and fertilizer, have remained high. That means there has to be the bushels to make up the difference. That didn't happen this year. The crop prices - they are eating us up," he said. "The only way to beat that is to try to produce more bushels.
However, "We had a less-than-average wheat crop and a probably a little bit less-than-average bean crop," Craig said of the two crops he grows.
That's why, he said, he has a good banker.
"We have a good working relationship," Craig said. But there are bright spots beyond dealing with commodities and the weather. It's goes back to the family operation and the life skills her children are learning, said Sheila.
But there are bright spots beyond dealing with commodities and the weather. It's goes back to the family operation and the life skills her children are learning, said Sheila.
"It is country life. It is peaceful," said Sheila, who is a production planner at Compass Minerals in Lyons. She added she enjoys visiting big cities, but at the end of the trip, she's ready return to Abbyville.
"It's home. It's peaceful. it is a good place to be, to raise a family," she said.
Steven attended Fairfield High School where he excelled in football before getting a scholarship to play at Dodge City Community College. Fifteen-year-old Hannah is a sophomore.
At a small school, Sheila said, her children have had the opportunity to be involved in many activities and sports. They live in a community where everyone knows everyone and everyone looks after each other.
They've also learned the value of handwork, Sheila said.
And, in the summers, Hannah helps her grandmother with meals in the mornings before heading to work for Farmers Co-op Grain Co. of Abbyville.
Steven said he works part time on their operation as well as Brian and Damon Stauffer's operation. In a year or two, he transition full-time into the Knoche operation.
Steven said he knows the value of a good work ethic.
"Working on the farm you work hard, and I always took that off the farm, and put it into sports, activities like FFA and things like that. Especially when I went to college playing football in college - I took the work ethic from the farm and put it in football in college."
And like his father, Steven can't imagine doing anything else, either. He wants to follow in his father and grandfather's footsteps.
"A big part to me is tradition - family farm - that is a big deal," said Steven. "We've been farming for generations now, and I want to keep it going. It is something I always wanted to do, and I think it is very important."
Sheila and Craig added their son's love of the farm was instilled at a young age, noting he would ride around the farm with his grandpa and tinker with him in the shop.
Craig said of his children, "It's exciting to see the next generation."
"It's a good occupation," said Craig. "Sometimes it can be a little tough - especially during the drought, low commodity prices. It can be a little tough on a person. It gets nerve-racking. But that is part of the game."