Kathleen Oyen and her family received the 2017 Century Farm Award for having continuous ownership of the farm for 100 years or more Aug. 8.
The Century Farm Awards program began in 1948 as part of Wisconsin’s Centennial Celebration, the 23-day Wisconsin State Fair, according to fair press release. During this year’s Wisconsin State Fair, Hillshire Farm and Compeer Financial recognized 132 Century Farm families, 9,300 farms have been honored since the program’s inception.
The farm has been in Oyen’s family for 127 years to be exact, she said. It’s located around two miles outside Lodi.
Her grandfather, John C. Miller, bought the farm in 1890. Miller previously had bought the farm from his brother, but Oyen said there was no record to show for when that occurred. In 1943, Oyen’s parents Sadie and Elmer Buchanan then acquired the 240-acre farm.
“I think at the time my parents bought it, it was just after the depression,” Oyen said. “There wasn’t always a lot of money, but we always had a big garden and we had food…We had chickens and we had our own eggs…I think that’s probably one way how a lot of farms survived during that time, because it was all-inclusive…You had pretty much what you needed.”
Oyen said she lived there from age 7, up until she got married to her now deceased husband, Marvin Oyen.
“[We] lived different places,” Oyen said. “My husband was in the service and we were in Germany for almost two years.”
The couple acquired Oyen’s home farm in 1977 while living at Marvin’s parent’s farm. But the house on Marvin’s farm unfortunately burned to the ground in 1981.
“It was the most horrible time in our lives,” Oyen said, her voice breaking. “We lost a daughter.”
Though it was a tragedy, Oyen said it made her family more thoughtful and more benevolent. The family then built a house at Oyen’s home farm in the fall of 1981. She said the family went on to raise crops like oats, hay and corn. They also raised animals like cows, pigs and sheep and her daughters would show them in 4-H competitions.
“I was mostly responsible for the sheep,” Oyen said. “I would have to go out in the middle of the night and check the sheep to make sure there wasn’t a problem…I miss that.”
Oyen’s grandson Kyle currently raises the crops, which are mostly corn and soybeans. He and a family friend also raise cattle in Oyen’s pasture. She said her children help her out with other tasks, including mowing the lawn, whenever they can. One daughter in New York comes home often, she said, just to be there for her mother.
“Anyone who has ever been a farmer knows there is always a lot of hard work, and it isn’t Monday through Friday,” Oyen said. “It’s 24/7, 365 days a year.”