CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) — Before Donna and Herb Winslow got married, they sat down at a table at Casa Montez restaurant in Joplin and mapped out their lives together. They were both Missouri Southern State University students at the time, on a date at one of Joplin’s most popular hangouts. But even then they had a knack for the long term.
“We sat there and planned out our lives. We said if we get married, we’ll finish school, we’ll both become teachers, have a couple of kids, then retire in 30 years. And that’s basically what happened,” said Herb Winslow, who is now retired.
One thing they didn’t factor into their plans – something that would consume much of their time – was the farm that had been in Donna Winslow’s family, The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/2ep46Bp ) reported.
It is the latest in Jasper County to be recognized as a Century Farm, meaning it has been operated by the same family for 100 years, including several decades when the couple worked it.
“We didn’t really talk about it then,” Donna Winslow said of their date at Casa Montez. “We didn’t even think of it.”
The Winslows say they have never been farmers first – they’re now retired from careers as physical education teachers – but they have been sustained over the years by their ties to the farm, their neighbors, by the land, and by the memories layered over it as densely as fescue.
The Century Farm program was created to honor that connection. More than 8,000 farms have received the designation since the program began.
“It’s a celebration of our farming industry here in Missouri and in Jasper County,” said Janet LaFon, Jasper County program director for the University of Missouri Extension, which runs the program. “It’s important because it’s quite an accomplishment for a farm to have stayed in the family for that length of time.”
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 7 million family-owned farms in 1935, the peak year; today there are about 2 million.
Donna Winslow grew up on the 120 acres of pastureland, which extend uphill from Center Creek to the southwest of Carthage.
Her grandfather earned his living there, doing well enough that his cousins followed him from Lawrence County. Even today, she can set out along Center Creek in either direction and run into a farm owned by a Roeper – her maiden name.
The Winslows have made the farmhouse their own through a series of renovations, but it sits on the same spot where Donna Winslow came into a deep love for her grandmother, Loretta Roeper, a tiny, bonnet-wearing woman who sewed all of her clothes and “could probably snap a snake’s head off with one arm.”
Loretta Roeper died when Winslow was 18 years old. Her father and second grandmother died that same year.
She enrolled at MSSU, met Herb Winslow and laid a plan for their lives together in the Joplin restaurant.
“My roots go really, really deep here,” Winslow said, but with all that change, she did not plan to return to the farm. The idea of living her whole life in one place just didn’t sit right.
But then she and Herb rented the farmhouse while raising their family, and he fell in love with the place.
Now, after decades of farming – sometimes by flashlight – the place is a Century Farm.
In order to be recognized, a farm must have been continuously worked by the same family for 100 years. It must cover at least 40 acres and contribute to the family’s income.
For Herb Winslow, a middle school physical education teacher in Carthage schools who also coached wrestling, football, and track (Donna was also a P.E. teacher in Joplin schools), that meant raising cattle and hauling out feed after dark, usually when the practice was over.
Herb Winslow didn’t grow up a farmer – his first jobs were at McDonald’s and at a welding shop.
“I learned all this stuff from scratch,” he said. “I made a lot of mistakes.”
Donna regrets that her father died before he could pass along the agricultural knowledge he’d picked up from his father.
Her grandfather – the first owner of the farm – was the last to grow row crops, but the cattle have been a fixture for a century.
The Winslow herd – rather, the Winslow herds – topped out at 100 head when their children were in high school. The cattle served as a college fund, with each child helping to care for some of the purebred Charolais, often showing their finest in competition, then selling them to help cover tuition.
Now the herd is down to 40, not counting the current calving season, but the cattle continue to draw younger generations to the farm.
“The grandkids and great-grandkids think the cows are theirs,” Donna Winslow said.
And some of the grandkids are already setting their sights on the farm itself, a good sign that this Century Farm has more milestones ahead.
They aren’t alone. Their daughter, Heather, finds time to visit the farm once a month and pressed her parents to apply for the recognition. She was married in the front yard. Their son, Trace, lives in Texas and makes the long trip as often as possible.
Donna Winslow said she told her ambitious granddaughter: “Just get in line.”