Ed Breuer is a small town man, following in the footsteps of his dad. He co-owns and operates a farm (the “home farm”) with his brother, Ken, in rural southwest Wisconsin where he grows livestock and crops. Every day he takes pride in his work, his land, and his family.
I am Ed Breuer. I am 54 years old. I’ve been a farmer all my life. The farm that what we call the home farm is where I grew up at and is where I’ve been all my life. When I was born, that was where I went and that was home.
My brother, Ken, and I purchased the farm from my dad in 1979. We really didn’t have much, but we didn’t need much at that time. I got married and then we moved only 2 miles away and that is where I still live now. We bought the home farm and then the second farm here. That was about, uh four, five years after we bought the home farm. We’re both co-owners and operators. We each can do whatever needs to be done. I guess we’ve made it a profitable…good doin’ business out of it. We’ve succeeded, at this point. Our operation consists of mainly the two farms. The home farm and then the farm that I live near now approximately 440 acres altogether- crops and livestock. I think we could probably say we almost average a 12-hour day 365 days a year. I don’t know how accurate that is but quite often I’m gone out of the house by six in the morning and it’s not very often I get back in by six at night.
My dad, he grew up and was raised on a farm that was right next to the home farm, within a quarter mile—that was his “home farm.” As the opportunities arose, then, um my dad and his brothers bought farms in the area. That’s how he got that farm where he began his own career in farming. It was nearby, and the person that had it was selling for one reason or the other and he was able to buy it. The home farm, where dad started on, was the same size it is now: a hundred and thirty acres. He bought it in, uh, I believe it was just before the great depression or right in the great depression, anywhere from like two, three, four hundred dollars an acre probably at that time… he had a pretty tough goin’ in the beginning, but he made it work. He told me once, “I don’t think dad woulda let me go under.” I don’t think his dad would have let him go bankrupt or whatever you wanna call it at the time, but um, no, I don’t think he considered backing out. Deep down, no, I don’t think he ever decided or he ever wanted to back out or quit. People at that time weren’t quitters too much.
When we were kids…like my brothers and everyone, we all had chores to do. Responsibilities. There were 7 of us boys. All boys. Mom didn’t have any girls. The four older boys were from her first marriage. Her first husband passed away and then she married my dad and between the two of them, they had the three of us. Three more boys. We had, you know, hogs to feed and calves to feed and cattle to feed. I usually had to feed the weaned calves but I did take care of some of the pigs too. We all kinda did. You know, somebody got done with what they were doin’ then they went and did what else needed doin’. But my chores were usually feeding the cattle, I guess, if I remember right. You know, everybody had their own set of chores… we all had our own thing and sometimes we’d kinda switch off depending on who had to do what or who wanted to do what but, uh, feeding the cattle and the hogs was the daily everyday thing.
Out of the 7 boys, the 3 of us [younger boys] were the only ones that were into the farming. The other—the older guys—they had all had their own separate careers that they were on and they weren’t part of the farming operation. I wasn’t really terribly interested in going to college… I wanted to learn a skill. I mainly went through high school and then just one year of vocational school where I took up welding. It was a one school year course: 9 months. I really did not have an interest in goin’ on to college at the time. I really did not. Well… Farming wasn’t my first choice at the time either. I don’t know what I was gonna do exactly, but I really didn’t wanna farm. You know I could of gotten into machining or any number of things that I had an interest in as long as it’s something that was workin with my hands. But like I said, a four year degree didn’t appeal to me much.
My brother Ken and I bought the farm during the time I was in welding school. I think my dad would have been very, very disappointed if we hadn’t wanted the farm. It was very important to him that we take over the farm because he had bought that farm and he worked extremely hard to pay for that farm. He would not have wanted to sell it somewhere else. He wanted us to have that and in fact he even, um, he even was kinda going into little bit of a depression because he was thinking that we weren’t interested in the farm there for a while. It was really weighing on him. He was 52 years old when he married my mom. He was very, what you would say these days, “pretty old,” when he got married. So yeah, by the time we got to bein’ 18 years old, he was getting up there pretty good in age and there was no way he could handle all that stuff anymore because at that time it was more labor intense. It was kinda that we were sorta pushed somewhat I guess, or very much encouraged. I don’t know if I could say I got coerced into it, but, uh, it kinda sealed the deal that I was gonna be a farmer.
Maybe the most underappreciated part about being on the farm is to be outside in nature and the fresh air. Sometimes I step back and, and I think, for instance, when you’re working outside in the evening and the moon comes up full and bright or you’re outside in the morning and the sun comes up bright and this beautiful day—you know, nature’s all around us. A lot of times, you take things for granted like that but, you know… more and more in these last few years here I’ve been thinking, “you know, what a great place to work.” I can be outside and out in the fresh air and have nature all around and watch the sun rise or the sun set, or the moon and the stars so bright.
My dad told me once, when my oldest daughter was just a baby, “This is a real good place for you to grow up too.” And I have to totally agree with that. Raising a family on a farm, I think, is probably the best place you can raise a family. Of course, I’m biased, I suppose, because that’s all I’ve ever known. But yeah, i’m very glad I was able to do that. Raise my family on a farm. My personal family now is four girls and one boy. And my wife, ‘Mom’. She’s in the background buckin’ for that. I love my wife dearly [Mom interjects: “That a boy”] and I tell her so every day. We had 5 kids and they were all within, what are ya? About 5 in six years. This day and age, not too many people have 5 kids anymore. Yea, its’ a, it’s quite a little, but yea you know, I’m not gonna look back and say I’d do it any different. That’s the way we did it and…we made it work.
As far as the future of the farm, sure that’s something that I’ve been giving a considerable amount of thought to lately. We worked pretty hard for a good number of years to make it what it is and I would hope the family would be able to hang onto it. I would [pause] I would hope it could stay in the family. I really do. I guess I’m kinda like my dad that way. I don’t know exactly how that would work yet. We’ll keep operating. Retirement. Yea I thought about that many times too. Ya see a lot of people retire and they got hobbies or whatnot to keep themselves busy. Well, why can’t this be my hobby? You know? I could see myself picking up a number of other little hobbies besides having a farming hobby. But at this point, I can’t see myself just quitting. Not doing anything. It’s good for the mind and good for the body to be doin’ something. So, uh, I’ll be doin’ somethin’.