Glawes honored as Century Farm

Nestled in a lush valley at the end of a steeply meandering road sits one of Clayton County’s most beautiful farms. Owned for 100 years by the Glawe family, the farm, which is located just off Highway 13 a bit north of Elkader, could’ve been inspiration for a Grant Wood painting: well groomed yards, gently rolling fields, and pristine barns and sheds.

Pride of ownership is evident in every detail from the autumnal decorations welcoming visitors to the two homes located there to the manicured borders of the lane leading to those two houses. There’s also unmistakable pride in the way the Glawe family talks about the farm and what it’s meant to them to work the land these past several decades.

“It’s not an easy life but it’s a good life,” said Teresa Sass, who works the farm with her husband, Rich. “The work is hard. There are nights in the summer when we finally come in at 9:30 or 10—not because the work is done but because it’s gotten too dark to see. But even with those hours, it’s a good job and a great lifestyle.”

The Glawes were one of five Clayton County families honored with a Century Farm distinction at the 2013 Iowa State Fair. The honor recognizes 100 years of family ownership.

Herman Glawe, who was only 8-years-old when his family left Germany for the U.S., started the farm in 1913 with 240 acres of land. The land sustained his large family of eight children (plus a son who died in infancy). Herman died at the age of 56 when his twin sons, Harold and Harley, were just boys. The twins later purchased the farm, assuming full responsibility for it when they were just 17.

“This was during World War II and my brother and I thought about joining the Navy,” Harley said. “But the military needed food for the soldiers so they wouldn’t take us.”

“You should’ve seen it when my brother and I took over,” Harley continued. “You couldn’t get across the ditch when it rained. We did everything by hand, too. We even built a bridge using just manual labor.”

Harley and his wife, Irma, lived in the original home place where they raised four children, including Teresa. Harold and his wife lived in a second house just a stone’s throw away. The two brothers farmed together until Harold’s death just 17 years later. Harley bought out his brother’s share of the farm. Harold’s widow stayed on in the “new” farmhouse for several years. Teresa and Rich live there now, and have worked the land for more than 40 years. The farm has nearly quadrupled in size to 940 acres.

“I guess you could say we’re our own village,” said Theresa, reflecting on all of the family members who’ve made their home on the farm.

Once a dairy, crop and hog operation, the farm’s current focus is cattle and crops. Teresa and Rich handle most of the work themselves, though season help is sometimes brought in. Harley “retired” from farming in the early ‘90s but he still “supervises” the operation from his front door.

“He’s still up at 5:30, just like when we were milking and he still has to know what’s going on,” said Irma, a one-time “city” girl—she was raised in Garber—who, with characteristic candor, admits to hating the first five years of farm life. “We’d go to family gatherings and we were always the first to leave because our day started so early. I hated that.”

She came to love the lifestyle as did her son-on-law, Rich, who left high school thinking he’d be a teacher but soon realized he was better suited for farming.

“I guess I just like the feel of dirt under my fingernails,” he said.

The family isn’t certain who will run the farm when Rich and Teresa retire. None of their three children seem interested, although a son has mentioned leaving his engineering job to get back to the land. Everyone agrees, however, that the farm will stay in the family even it the land is rented out.

“This farm is a special place and for me, it makes me feel so connected to my past,” Teresa said, who, like her father, has lived her entire life on the family farm. “It’s like a security blanket or a favorite stuffed toy. It’s something that’s always with me. I do my best thinking when I do fence checks, and one of the things I always think about is what grandpa would say about the changes we’ve made. I think he’d be very proud.”

 

By Pam Reinig, Register Editor

 
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