On a cold January afternoon, Ava White sits with warm blanket and toys at her feet while watching cartoons. Working around her on the farm is her dad, grandma and great-grandma. Together they make up SF Farms, a fourth generation farming operation near Princeton.
SF Farms, owned by Sherry Froggatte and Jodi, Jeff & Stephen White, was one of three area farms to receive the annual Franklin County Bankers Award for Soil Conservation, presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Franklin County Conservation District’s Annual Meeting on Thursday.
The award is presented in recognition of general quality of conservation work completed on land owned/operated, the maintenance of conservation practices and overall stewardship of the land.
“It’s nice to be honored,” Jody White said. “I’m sure there are people that work at it harder than we do.
SF Farms, grows soybeans, corn, sometimes wheat and also have a registered Angus herd. The family has been farming the same land since 1954. Keeping an operation going that long presents many challenges. White said this year the biggest challenge has been the weather.
“Things were so dry when we were trying to put crops in we didn’t know if they would come up,” she said. “About the time we were trying to get them out we got 15 inches of rain. It made it difficult to get the crops out and if affects the cattle. They are in mud and the don’t want to bread or we lose calves. It’s also affected the protein value in the feed so we have to add to the silage to make it work better.”
Jeff White has a day job as assistant principal at Osawatomie High School and said he was proud of the way the farm has continued on.
“They have done a good job of keeping things together as a family,” he said. “Keeping it all together, it’s very difficult to keep it in the family when there used to be four or five kids and now we have one generation followed by one generation. They have don’t a really good job of keeping the land in the family.”
The farm won a banker’s award in 1987 and since that time, the Angus herd has given the farm a new source of revenue.
“Her (Jody) and her dad started the registered Angus herd in 1993,” Jeff said. “I can remember the first cow they bought. Now they have raised it up to a herd of over 300 head and everything on the farm is registered.”
Soil conservation is vital to the continued success of SF Farms. They use many forms of conservation practices like burning field, keeping weeds down and maintaining terraces. They also try to rotate crops and let cattle clean up areas following a harvest.
“Keeping terraces in shape has been a challenge,” she said. “Those big rains have really washed them out this year. My dad always said you have to leave the land better than you found it and make it better for the next generation. It you don’t take care of it, it won’t take care of you.”
The land has been taking care of the family for decades and there is a new generation already working to keep the legacy going.
“The kids work very hard,” Sherry said. “They work seven days a week, 24 hours a day it seems like.”
Stephen is the next generation and his daughter Ava already feels a part of the operation. She already knows who owns what cow by the color of the tag and is involved in taking care of the animals. Stephen said it’s important to him to keep working the family land.
“I didn’t really know any different way,” he said. “She’s got the routine down already. She feeds with me like I fed with my grandpa.”