Ralph Kenzy used to tell his sons, “You can’t put it all in your pocketbook.”
“He meant that agriculture is a lot more than money,” explains his oldest son, Brett, 45. “You get to be on the land, raising your kids. You get to work with crops and cattle. You’re never going to get rich ranching … there’s more than dollar bills that make you rich.”
Brett has worked on the family ranch since childhood except for a short break to serve in the Army and attend college. “I came back because I missed the community, the home base, this tie to the land,” Brett explains.
His brother, George, 40, adds: “My dream was always here.”
Like his older brother, George only left the Gregory ranch long enough to get a degree and even when they were college students, the fourth-generation cattle producers drove home to work every weekend.
Listening to the brothers/business partners visit about raising their children and cattle on the family’s ranch, it is clear that Ralph’s philosophy lives on through his sons. Ralph passed away in 2012.
“I kind of figured they would come home to ranch because they were home every weekend to work,” says their mom, Millie.
It was the first day of school 2006 and LeAnn's phone rang. Her son, Chet's, preschool teacher was calling.
"She said, 'LeAnn I think we have a problem. At the end of the day Chet packed up his bag and said, 'Thanks Mrs. Lanners. I had a great day, but I won't be back.'"
Taking the conversation in stride, LeAnn (Neugebauer) Moe met Chet as he got off the bus and set about showing the four-year-old the value of education by making connections between school and their family's Alexandria farm.
"We asked him to count the cows in the pasture, reminding him that in school he will learn how to count. We asked him if he wanted to help the guys spray in the field and then explained that he needed to learn science to do that.
South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s number one industry and help feed the world. This month, we feature the Mehling family who raise crops and cattle southwest of Wessington.
by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union
Ask Greg Mehling, 53, what his favorite Christmas gift was as a child and without hesitation he names the miniature thrashing machine his dad built for him.
“The summer Greg was 6 we took him to Prairie Village. He came home needing a thrashing machine, so I worked in the garage every night until Christmas,” recalls Greg’s dad, Roy, 74.
The fourth-generation farmer’s early introduction to farm equipment didn’t stop with toys. By 7, Greg was driving a tractor. “Farming’s kinda in my blood. I enjoy it,” he explains.
After a brief detour to Lake Area Technical Institute and a few job interviews, Greg knew that even though times were tough, farming was the only career for him.
“It was the 80s, so the farming deal wasn’t really good, but after a few job interviews, I knew that farming was the only work I wanted to do,” Greg explains.