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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • 2 Century Farms recognized

  • A farm started in 1836 (or maybe it was 1834) and another started more than 100 years ago that is now worked by four generations were recognized as Century Farms Monday night at the Phelps County University of Missouri Extension picnic.
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  • A farm started in 1836 (or maybe it was 1834) and another started more than 100 years ago that is now worked by four generations were recognized as Century Farms Monday night at the Phelps County University of Missouri Extension picnic.
    The Phelps County Farm Family of the Year was also announced by Chantae H. Alfred, county program director for the local Extension office.
    One Century Farm is owned by Pat and Jeanne O'Mealy, of Rolla, and David and Carla Saxon, Vancouver, Wash. Jeanne O'Mealy and Carla Saxon are sisters whose great-great-grandfather began the farm. It is located along what is known as Tick Creek.
    The other Century Farm is the Wehmeier family farm, operated by William and Rita Wehmeier. It is located between Rolla and St. James off Highway BB and was started by Charles Koerner, William Wehmeier's great-great uncle.
    The Phelps County Farm Family of the Year is the Franz family. Betty Franz is a former member of the Phelps County UM Extension Council and the Missouri State Extension Council. She has been an outspoken advocate of agriculture and education for many years, Alfred said.
    "Farming is still the backbone of America," said Tony Delong, Extension county council coordinator for the University of Missouri. "The number of people served, fed and clothed by farming is tremendous."
    That contribution to American economic life and the development of the nation was first recognized in 1976 in a special program related to the bicentennial. Ten years later, it was brought back and became an annual recognition.
    "Every year over 100 farms are recognized," Delong said.
    Noting that the purpose of Extension, the recognition of the Century Farm program and the role of agriculture are intertwined, Delong noted that the American culture has changed and it is no longer rural or knowledgeable about agriculture.
    "There are people who don't know that milk comes from a cow and who have never held a warm, freshly laid egg," he said. "Every day we need to recognize and share with others the importance of farming."
    A Century Farm must be in the same family or heirs to that family for 100 years minimum, Delong said.
    Pat O'Mealy said his wife's family farm was started by Solomon and Sophronia Hawkins.
    The Hawkinses first settled in the Arlington-Jerome area. They and the Harrison and Duncan families were the first settlers of that area, he said.
    They soon moved "downstream to Tick Creek," he said.
    "They established a homestead in 1836 is what historians say although there's something in the family Bible that says something about 1834," he told the picnickers. "The farm itself has been in three counties without ever moving, Pulaski, Maries and Phelps."
    The original 40 acres remains a part of the 200-plus-acre family holdings today. They rent the house out, and they live in town, but the property still has an agricultural use and qualifies as a farm.
    Page 2 of 2 - The property is used to raise hay, which the family sells to an individual who cuts and bales it.
    The O'Mealys believe the farm will continue to be owned and used by their children.
    The Wehmeiers are well known in the area for their production of high-quality Angus cattle.
    "We have four generations living on our farm," Rita Wehmeier noted as they posed for a family picture at the picnic.
    William Wehmeier said he and his father, who will be 92 in December, worked together for 40 years on the farm.
    "I've worked it full time since high school," said Wehmeier, one of the few full-time farmers/ranchers in this part of Missouri. "I wish my dad could be here."
    Wehmeier said his grandparents obtained the farm from their great-uncle and great-aunt who owned the original 40 acres still in the farm.
    Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp, District One Commissioner Larry Stratman and District Two Commissioner Gary Hicks attended the picnic.
    "We appreciate the county commission for supporting us," Alfred said. "We appreciate the county council for supporting us."
    Sen. Dan Brown sent copies of Missouri Senate proclamations congratulating the Century Farm owners.
    About
    Missouri’s Century Farm program
    The Missouri Century Farm program’s history dates back to 1976 as a result of the Missouri Committee for Agriculture that was co-chaired by James B. Boillot, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, and Elmer R. Kiehl, dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri.
    The committee’s purpose was to organize the American Revolution bicentennial celebration in Missouri. One activity that was initiated by the committee was the “Centennial Farm” project, which awarded certificates to people owning farms that had been in the same family for 100 years or more. Interest in the program continued after 1976.
    The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and University of Missouri Extension planned a 10-year update in 1986 called the “Century Farm” program. This program has been sustained as a yearly event with more than 100 farms recognized each year.
    In 2008, the Missouri Farm Bureau became a program co-sponsor.

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