Thompson farm abounds with stories
BREWSTER -- In 1895, when John McCarvel bought 120 acres and established his family's farm near Brewster, it might have been easy to imagine that now -- 110 years later -- his descendants would remain on the land, working the same fields and enjo...
BREWSTER - In 1895, when John McCarvel bought 120 acres and established his family’s farm near Brewster, it might have been easy to imagine that now - 110 years later - his descendants would remain on the land, working the same fields and enjoying the same views. After all, many people were farmers back then and the majority of the jobs that exist now hadn’t even been thought of in the 19th century.
But times were changing, farming methods were improving, and the truth is there aren’t a whole lot of people in America anymore who can say they live on the same land as their great-grandparents did.
But Troy Thompson, who has farmed the family land since 1987, is one of them. From the time Troy was a little boy, he would stay out on the farm for a week or more at a time, trailing his uncle around the farm and picking rock.
“I walked a lot of beans - lent a hand around the farm,” Troy said.
“Troy had a garden from when he was 6 years old,” his mother, Sandra Thompson, explained. “Farming is in his blood.”
Troy and Lynette’s son, Alex, also carries that family love of working the land. He is studying agriculture at SDSU in Brookings, S.D., and plans to continue the family farming legacy when he graduates.
“Alex started helping farm at 10 or 11,” said Lynette, her pride in her son clear in her smile and words. “He’s looking forward to taking over. I always say he’s the best grain cart driver in the county.”
Alex and his younger sister, Ashley, both grew up on the family land in the original house that was built on the property in 1895 - though, to be sure, the house looks very different than it did all those years ago.
“The first change to the farmhouse was in 1957,” explained Sandra. “We enclosed the porch. When I was young I played house here. We’d run clear around the house - on the inside - but when the porch was enclosed we couldn’t do that anymore.”
Troy and Lynette furthered the changes when they remodeled in 2002, adding on a bedroom and bathroom and updating the kitchen and basement. In 2010 they added a garage. They’ve spent their entire married life in the house, as Troy had moved there about a year before they were married.
Back when Sandra was married, they hosted their wedding reception in the house.
“We got married at the Catholic Church in Brewster and then came here for the reception. We had Grandma’s 95th birthday party here, too, in 1976. Had a lot of people here for that party,” Sandra reminisced.
Sandra grew up in the house, as her father had been killed in a car accident when she was just 4 months old. They moved in with her grandmother and uncle following the accident.
“My uncle was like my dad, since Dad had died and my grandfather was dead, too. He was killed in a tornado in 1933. The tornado took the barn and it collapsed on him,” Sandra narrated. “My mom hung on to a fence post and that’s how she survived.”
That barn was actually located on different family property, though the event clearly impacted both farms. The barn that was original to this farm was a former tile factory, located on the edge of the property. The family used that enormous barn until 1990.
“We had fat cattle and chickens, pigs, sheep, horses, ducks,” remembered Sandra. “We rode the horses bareback. If they didn’t like you they’d bite. The pigs got out onto Main Street a time or two. I had to milk the cows and deliver milk and eggs every morning before school.”
Now the animals, but for a dog and some rabbits, are long gone. The oats that used to grow in the fields are gone, too, though the corn remains and soybeans have been added in, an eventuality that John McCarvel could never have seen.
“John S. bought the land from the Clarys,” explained Lynette. “As in Clary Street in Worthington. The cost of the land per acre at the time of that original purchase was $12.50. The 120 acres is now 109, because a trailer park was built around 1982 and that took away a few of the acres. All together, we farm 1,550 acres now.”
Farming has changed so much that none of the original equipment remains but a 1954 red Ford pickup, brought brand new, still takes pride of place on the farm.
“Every one of the scratches on it Mom put in,” laughed Troy as he glanced at his mother who nodded in agreement. “And we still have the first brand-new tractor that was bought here, a 706 International. We got our first combine around 1992.”
“We were still picking corn by ear in a two-row corn picker before that,” Sandra recalled. “When I was a kid we’d get out of school extra days in the fall to help pick corn that was left behind in the field. We did it to raise money for school projects.”
Though the methods of farming have changed in the 110 years of the farm, the love of - and connection to - the land have not. And that is something John McCarvel would recognize to this day.