Joseph Schartz was born in 1939 in Great Bend, KS., the fourth of seven children. His father and grandfather were Midwestern farmers, and he was soon to follow in their footsteps. Today, he farms 5,000 acres of corn, alfalfa and wheat in the panhandle of Texas, along with his wife of 44 years, Vicky, and their sons and grandchildren – fourth- and fifth-generation American farmers.
“I like the satisfaction of raising the best crop I can,” says this man of few words. “I’ve always worked with family…my dad, brother and now my sons.”
In fact, aside from his Air Force service from 1959 to 1963, Joe has spent his entire life farming.
Growing Up Farming
Joe Schartz knew he wanted to be a farmer from the time he was about 10 years old.
“Joe started driving a tractor at 11 or 12 years old,” his sister Carol (Schartz) Hanley recalls. “I heard my father on more than one occasion say, ‘I can trust Joe to plow a straight line and never cut corners’ – that was the highest of compliments.”
“In the springtime, before going to school, we were awakened in the wee hours of the morning to move irrigation pipes laid out in long rows across the fields,” she continues. “On a hot summer harvest day, I stood beside my brothers, shoveling wheat as it poured into the granary from the Mayrath augers below. When harvest was completed, there was plowing to be done in the field, and there was the cleaning and maintenance of tractors and combines. Even as a kid of 9 or 10, Joe did these tasks without complaining. I suspect even at that early age, he was wired for the hard work involved in farming – the early risings, the late work in the fields, the maintenance of tractors and combines.”
No Plans to Retire
After a life of farming, Joe has no plans to retire. “I am not as active as in the early years, but I still put in long hours during planting and harvest,” he says.
He finds that his life work keeps him vital. “It keeps me active and I enjoy it.”
Joe’s six siblings are not surprised he chose to pursue this life. His sister says, “Most of my siblings would tell you that Joe is the most like my dad – in temperament, in work ethic, in his love for working outdoors, tilling the soil, farming the land, caring for the machinery.”
Joe and Vicky have five children, three of whom live on the family farm, insuring this tradition of growth and harvest continues.
He will be right there with them, as he says, “I don’t plan to retire; my life is here.”
Women Farmers on the Rise – AARP.org