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Harms still going strong at 100

Sam Harms hauls a load of grain to the Lexington P.C. Co-op elevator in October / photo courtesy of Jeff & Lisa Wilson.

LEXINGTON – Sam Harms has seen it all during his farming career. The 100-year-old rural Lexington resident is spending time reminiscing after his milestone birthday in October.

When Harms first started farming, he bought a John Deere Model A for $600. He also bought a 15-foot disk for $150 and an old four section harrow for $35.

“I used my father-in-law’s two-row horse corn planter. That started me farming,” Harms recalled on a recent morning while sitting at his kitchen table.

Harms feels there is no comparison between the farm equipment of yesterday and today. He started out with a Case combine which had a bin that held 20 bushels. He put a hitch on it and pulled a wagon alongside.

“I thought then it would never get bigger than this. I thought I really had something.”

Before many had heard of split-row soybeans, Harms used a two-row planter with two runners on it to make 20-inch rows. His beans made 15 bushels per acre and were sold the following winter for 67 cents per bushel.

“Some people that fall never even combined their beans that had them in wide rows. It wasn’t worth combining,” Harms explained.

When Harms was younger, dirt roads were the norm. This led to oil, gravel and eventually blacktop roads throughout the countryside. Harms lived between Lexington and Colfax for a few years before the current farm he lives on came up for sale. His brother-in-law alerted him to the property he has lived on ever since.

Harms, who comes from a large family, grew up around Wing in Livingston County. He remembers the depression and the tough times that followed.

“We had 20 acres of corn that made three bushel to the acre in 1936,” he said.

The rest of the field performed better, making 30-35 bushels per acre. There were two people to a wagon taking eight to ten rows through the field.

In addition to raising crops, Harms was also in the dairy business for a while. Harms’ sons, Loren and Larry, have taken over the day to day operations of the current farm.

Friends and family gathered at the Prairie Central Cooperative Lexington grain elevator Oct. 17 to watch Harms haul in two wagons full of grain on his 100th birthday. His wife, LaVerne, was also on hand for the occasion. She turned 100 in March. The couple married back in 1940.

Harms admitted he hadn’t driven a tractor for a couple of years, but it all came back once he climbed into the cab.

“I did it just like two years ago – pulled it into the elevator, over the scales and up to dump,” he said. “I don’t know how many trips I made over that scale.”

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