Go figure ! Having been a New Jersey resident all my life the last thing I thought I would be doing at 55 years of age was moving to rural Missouri.
Our move from west central New Jersey to SW Missouri was a return to what NJ used to be many years ago.. The area from which we moved, was at one time, considered rural. In the 26 years we lived there it turned solid suburban, inhabited by urban transplants who cared little for the outdoors . We always maintained a 6 acre “hobby farm” with chickens, ducks horses etc. and learned basic lessons of good water supply, food and proper fencing for animals. The population changed from an appreciation of farming and outdoor sporting of all kinds, to one of little concern for what the area had to offer. Little if any interest was shown for the preservation, tradition or restoration of the New Jersey outdoors or agriculture.
The dynamic duo, John & Marina
Marina and I saw the change occurring right before our eyes and it became our goal to see our children move away from the area. This was accomplished first by my daughter being educated at Syracuse University and then my son at Iowa State University. Both were granted scholarships, my son through wrestling and my daughter through the Army .
It was after following my son’s wrestling career throughout the Midwest that I decided to relocate to Missouri. It was T- shirt weather in St. Louis in late March that convinced me; little did I know we would experience a return to cold winters as of late! I also always wanted to live near my children, especially after my grandchildren arrived. After our move, it was unclear if that would happen but my son Kurt is married and lives in Des Moines, IA with his wife Amanda and son Jackson. My daughter Erin and granddaughter Sonja live with us in Seymour, MO. Mission accomplished!
We settled in Douglas County, Missouri for its traditional rural setting, reasonable real estate prices, bearable taxation and more personal freedom’s. Our proximity to Springfield, MO. gives us a reminder of the past with its traffic and malls!
Initially we were undecided as to what line of business to engage in so I continued my business activities in NJ while Marina directed the construction of our house and Shop buildings in Missouri. We made the sacrifice of being apart for many weeks during the year in order to build something for the future in an area with more potential opportunities .
Our land was a bare 90 acres 5 years ago. Today we have a thriving pasture raised hog farm dissected by fencing into woodlots and grass pastures.
Picture taken from the back of our house during construction.
Some thought this was a drastic change from family tradition! We went from an industrial construction business involved in the petrochemical and energy industry to farming in rural Missouri. Perhaps not…
My grandfather, Heinrich , left the family farm in Rheinhausen Germany at barely 13 years old for what he thought were riches in coal and asbestos mining…little did he know! In 1915, at 15 years old just before WW1, he accepted an apprenticeship at the Krup Locomotive Works in Dusseldorf. Not long after the war he made his “Journeyman”grade and with Germany in a severe economic depression and political turmoil, my great grandfather “Peter” put his three sons, Heinrich,Wilhelm and Peter on a ship bound for America. After a few years of odd jobs, he started his own welding fabrication business in New Jersey. Ironically his company was awarded the Army/ Navy “E” for excellence in quality and delivery of contract fabrication during WWII. Less than 5% of defense contractors received this award.
Heinrich Backes ,circa 1930. Pipe installation during George Washington Bridge construction.
My exposure to the mechanical trades and business later inspired me to strike off on my own soon after college at 25 years old. 35 years later here we are in SW Missouri full circle. The second, third and fourth generations are back on the farm !
My background in the construction trades has enabled me to install thousands of feet of water lines and waterers as well as a challenging fencing project in steep hollows and wood lots. Our hog and pig housing are substantial structures fabricated here on the farm. Over 40 years of construction experience are well suited to farm management.
John with the “Berkshire’s” and Berk/Red Wattle crosses.
2008 – 2009 we all saw a weakened economy and in spite of an extensive resume in business and management Marina, my wife, found employment prospects to be scarce in the Springfield area. At that point, she took what she knew and struck off on her own to market her family’s marinara sauce recipe. During this time and after much research and study, we also decided to begin a natural pasture raised hog farm, with the intent of marketing our own fresh cuts and “value added” products such as sausage, cured pork and Marina’s Italian meatballs.
The business has its challenges, primarily in the cost of production and staying competitive in the marketplace . I will be posting weekly with the intention of informing our customers and other consumers concerning farming practices. Practices regarding questions to ask and methods to employ while shopping for food at farmers markets and natural food stores. One significant one being asking for a farm visit to verify the claims made by producers. I will also indicate restaurants and markets that promote local traditional raised meat, produce and dairy. By traditional I mean how “things” were grown before food production was industrialized.
We have always placed a high value on wholesome “clean” food and want our customers to enjoy the same produced by us. It is my intent that my future postings will assist you in obtaining the best and most wholesome food for your families.
“Know Your Farmer and Know Your Food!”