Gaylen Jackson—a Dixon County Farm Bureau member for 70 years
There’s no hiding Gaylen Jackson’s love of farming. The 89-year-old northeast Nebraska farmer, now retired and in a Sioux City, Iowa, assisted living center, began what he considers his dream job as a young lad working with his father, Ben, during the 1930s and early 1940s on the farm northwest of Allen.
“I get upset when I hear farmers say, ‘I’m just a farmer,’” he said. “They should proclaim they produce food for the world and that it takes many skills to keep a farm running.”
Galen, whose been married to his wife, Carol, for 70 years, said all he ever wanted to do was farm. “I loved the work and the life.”
Carol added, “He always kept his nose to the grindstone. He loved all of us, too, but the farm was probably his first love.”
Today, grandson Jay Jackson manages the farm, which is considerably larger than the 240 acres Gaylen and Carol began within 1947.
About that time, Gaylen believed farmers needed better representation on all sorts of farm and tax issues as well as farm programs. So he helped form the Dixon County Farm Bureau and today is the only surviving charter member of this county affiliate. Gaylen recalled one spring season when, as an officer of the county Farm Bureau board, he traveled the county for a half-day each week to explain how the organization speaks on behalf of farmers.
Recognizing the contributions and dedication of the pioneering members like Gaylen Jackson of Allen, who led the way in building the organization to what it is today, will be a major theme in 2017 as the Nebraska Farm Bureau celebrates its centennial year.
The Jackson farm today is a three-generation enterprise now, with Gaylen, son Dale, and grandson, Jay, each owning land in the farm corporation. Dale, who lives in South Sioux City, is president of the corporation and Jay manages the day-to-day activities.
Gaylen recalled the good years and rough times during his years on the farm. Right after WWII, commodity prices were positive, but drought occurred in the 1950s. “One year, we raised only 7 bushels of corn per acre, but we stuck with it and we were glad we did.”
He was born in 1927 when farms were much more diversified than they are now. He took over in 1947 a year after he and Carol were married. “A typical farm had 80 to 160 acres, maybe up to 240, half-dozen milk cows, some chickens, a big garden and a large potato patch. Potatoes were the main part of our diet.
“After the drought years of 1934 and 1936, little feed was left for livestock, so dad (Ben) traded all but two horses and some of the livestock for a brand new Farmall F-20 on steel wheels.” Gaylen began farming with that F-20 on rubber tires, but still sowed oats with an end-gate seeder pulled by a team of horses and actually planted corn in 1947 with a two-row planter pulled by a team of horses. That was the last year of planting with horses.
“Our first corn crops were picked by hand, one ear at a time. Those were long days and a long harvest season of hitting the bangboards,” he said. “Soon we purchased a mechanical two-row picker. It was a cold job and sometimes I went to bed cold and it took most of the night to warm up.”
The first tractor Gaylen purchased, a Farmall H, along with a plow and cultivator, combined to cost less than $1,000 in 1949. He shakes his head when comparing that investment to today’s price tag of $300,000 or so for a four-wheel-drive tractor.
“Despite those labor-intensive times, I’m glad I lived on the farm. It was a good place to raise a family and it still is.”
For the Jacksons, family is a main priority. Gaylen and Carol raised four children, Dale, and his three sisters, Carol Jean, Kathy and Kim.
Gaylen fondly remembers their yearly vacations, many of the trips camping in a tent. “We didn’t have much money, but we had great times.”
There are eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. The grandchildren and nine of the great grandchildren all graduated from Allen High School.
Gaylen’s example of leadership and love of farming included FFA membership in high school where he worked on projects involving cattle, hogs and sheep. That involvement was passed on to son, Dale, and grandson, Jay, both of whom participated in FFA in high school.
He also passed on his interest in the Dixon County Farm Bureau. Dale and his wife, Loretta, each has been president of the county organization and so has Dale’s brother-in-law, Larry Boswell, who is married to Kathy. Grandson Jay, whose wife is Holly, also is a county Farm Bureau member and was involved in Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher group for a number of years.
“What changes the next 75 years will bring, I have no idea, but it will change,” Gaylen said.
Gaylen experienced many changes in his lifetime on the farm, but through hard work and the desire to see improvements in agriculture practices and policies, made possible in large part from organizations like the Nebraska Farm Bureau, he is confident that his family will continue to enjoy the good life on the farm.