JACKSON — Jerald Vacura has a distant memory of being with his great-grandfather on what is now being recognized as a Century Farm.
“I remember going to his house and listening to my dad and him talk in Czech, and I wouldn’t understand anything,” Jerald recalled.
Those are the only remaining recollections he has of his great-grandpa, James Vacura, who settled on the rural Jackson farm in 1919 after purchasing it from Joseph Macek. The site
had originally been railroad land. He bought the 80-acre parcel — where Jerald and his wife, Karen, now live — because of its proximity to his father’s farm.
“My great-great-grandfather had a farm about a mile and a half to the northwest of this farm that is still in the Vacura name,” Jerald said. “My great-great-grandfather, Jan Vacura, was the first to settle in Jackson County on the farm still owned by Liz Vacura.”
Upon buying his farm in 1919, James Vacura and his wife, Emma, grew mainly corn and some wheat and oats for livestock. They had nine children — among them Jerald’s grandfather, Wesley, who would grow up and farm near Clear Lake in Des Moines Township, also in Jackson County. That is where Jerald’s father, Walter — Wesley and Anna’s only child — was raised.
In 1949 Walter and his wife, Helen, bought the James Vacura farm for $15,000.
“Back in 1949, $15,000 was a lot of money. It still is if you don’t have it or owe it,” said Jerald, who is a real estate broker dealing primarily in farmland.
“The farm would sell for $8,000 an acre today,” he added.
Jerald, as well as his brother and sister, grew up on the farm his parents purchased from his great-grandfather. He recalls many hours spent cleaning the hog house and checking feeders.
“We also had chickens, a couple of cows and a horse for my sister,” he said.
He attended country school a quarter of a mile away and remembered with a chuckle, “The snow got a lot deeper on our walk to school than it does now.”
Growing up, Jerald wasn’t always sure he’d return to his parents’ farm and eventually take over operations.
“When I graduated from college, I was a heavy equipment operator working road construction for a couple of years before I came back and started farming with Dad,” he said. “That was about 1974. Then, when Dad wanted to retire, I took over.”
Jerald bought the farm in 1987 and farmed it until 1998.
“In 1998, my wife decided she didn’t want to pick up rocks anymore and some health problems meant she couldn’t help with the farming like before, so we decided to rent out the ground,” he explained. “It was either that or buy new equipment, because ours was getting old.
“The newest piece we had was from 1981,” he added. “ So, I rented out the land, sold our equipment and bought a couple of farms in South Dakota. It’s worked out really well for us. We’ve been very fortunate.”
Changes through the years
The only building remaining on the farm built by James Vacura is the machine shed.
“We straightened and tinned it just to preserve it,” said Jerald of the 1922 structure, adding that the building is too small for modern day equipment. “We’ve torn down the granary and the barn. Dad built a new hog house, about a 50-sow unit, in 1960. It’s still there.”
The original house succumbed to a fire in 1978 and a new house was built shortly after.
“We planted an evergreen tree where the old house stood, just to mark the spot. Today that tree stands halfway between the house and the machine shed. It’s a good reminder.”
Jerald and Karen raised three children on their farm; Jarrod, Neely and Tracy. They don’t foresee any of the children actively farming in the future, but expect the farm to remain in the family.
“We put the land in trust,” Jerald said. “The farm has been very good to us. When we were farming, it was a great place to raise our children and be connected to my family. Now that we are retired and living on the farm where it all started for me, I am just grateful that my great-great-grandfather decided to farm here and I can still be a part of it.”