By Jay Schmuecker
The period around 1910 was the zenith of American agriculture. At that time both of my grandfathers, Fred Tiedemann and Henry Schmuecker, farmed land northeast of Blairstown, Iowa.
Farms at that time were mostly self-contained. Beef and dairy cattle, hogs, chickens and sheep were raised on the farm and horses provided the power to work the land. Farms grew mostly corn, oats and hay. Much of what was grown was fed to the horses and other farm animals. Every farm had a garden. Animal manure was hauled out to the field to fertilize the ground. The only thing that had to be brought in and applied to the farm was lime, which was spread on the fields.
In the early 1920s, gasoline-powered tractors started to appear. I was told that Fred Tiedemann fell asleep one afternoon after lunch on a Fordson tractor while plowing and drove through a neighboring fence. Horses would have had the sense to stop after reaching the end of the row. Art Siek, my mother’s uncle, was the Standard Oil distributor and delivered gasoline to the farmers for their tractors.
My Uncle Art and another gentlemen had a mortgage on the Schmuecker Pinehurst Farm on which my grandfather raised purebred Angus cattle. In 1937, in order to pay off the mortgage that was called in, Henry Schmuecker had to sell Pinehurst and move to a farm two miles north of Amana, where he continued to raise Angus cattle. He sold the Pinehurst Farm to Mr. Klinger, who had a paint factory in Cedar Rapids. In 1944, one of Henry’s bulls won the championship in Chicago.
In 1947 Fred Tiedemann retired and rented out his land. At that time a family could live by farming 160 acres. In the 1950s, larger and more powerful tractors using diesel started appearing and the trend has continued. Chemical fertilizers also appeared and continue to be applied to fields to raise the yields.
I attended Blairstown School in 1940 (Kindergarten), 1943 (Third Grade), and 1950 (High School Freshman). This was the school my parents went to after attending country school. I spent many summers visiting the Tiedemann Farm.
With the encouragement of my parents, in 1999 I purchased the 320-acre Pinehurst Farm from the grandchildren of Mr. Klinger. I own the farm as an LLC with my three children, Jayne, Matthew and Amy. Members of our family also own two other farms nearby—Tiedemann Farm (where my mom was born and raised) and surrounding land that my parents purchased over the years.