Westfield offers two of the state’s oldest farmers
To my knowledge there are no official records regarding the state’s oldest farmers. But I have to believe Westfield Township located on the southern end of Dodge County is home to two of the state’s oldest.
About a month ago I hopped in the combine with Lowell Trom as he harvested his corn crop. For several years I’ve featured Trom, who is 89 and keeps on bringing in the harvest each fall with the help of his sons Brad and Jim. It’s something he has done for more than 75 years ever since he was a kid growing up on his home place.
Trom doesn’t quite understand the fuss with him, especially when his neighbor, Mervin Nelson, down the road is still harvesting. Nelson is only 95 years old. Imagine my amazement when Trom alerted me to someone who has six years on him. Trom is just a babe in the woods compared to Nelson. Last week in a front-page story, we featured Nelson as he completed yet another harvest.
“I’m just a kid,” Trom snickered in telling me about Nelson.
Asked about his key to longevity, Trom didn’t hesitate in saying hard work. “If you have something to live for, you’ll be around for a while,” he said.
Trom has suffered several medical issues over the years, including having a small patch of skin cancer removed this past year. But that hasn’t prevented him from giving up on what he loves to do. “I get tired, but I don’t get tired of farming,” he said as he maneuvered his combine through a cornfield on his 750-acre farm.
Farming has changed drastically over Trom’s life time. He recalls picking corn by hand in the 1940s. Once it was picked by hand, he had to shovel it into the corn crib. “God, I hated that job,” he said, noting they averaged about 40 bushels per acre by hand. Now Trom utilizes an 8-row picker, and it’s not uncommon to get 230 bushels per acre.
Commodity prices have been in the tank for the past several years and this year is no different. Trom plans to hang onto his corn in storage bins on his farm. “I’m going to keep it until Trump decides to pay me for it,” he said.
Trom admits it would be nice to retire from farming, but quickly adds, “What would I do—chase girls?” He thought about it a little more. “I’ve got more to do than sit in that damn nursing home. That’s for old people,” he said.
The veteran farmer says he has gone on a few vacations in the past, but doesn’t really relish the idea of going on more “fancy trips.” He said, “I’m too cheap to buy them. There are too many things you need on the farm.”
Trom prides himself on reinvesting back into his farm over the years. “It’s all here. Total lifetime of equipment, buildings and tile,” he said.
“Every year you look forward to making things better,” Trom said.
Through all the ups and downs of farming, Trom has kept his sense of humor. He accidentally spilled some corn on the ground as he was unloading from the combine. “There’s the profits,” he pointed out. “I’ll have to get a job this winter.”
Asked what keeps him coming back year after year for more farming, Trom replied, “Sure as hell ain’t money.”
So as the sun has set on another harvest season in Minnesota, two of the state’s oldest farmers in Westfield Township plan to take a winter’s nap and gear up for yet another planting and harvest season next year.
There is no taking these old-timers, Nelson and Trom, out of the farm as they go in hot pursuit of continuing a lifetime tradition that has been a part of the fabric of the agriculture landscape of southern Minnesota for decades.