Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tonganoxie farm honored for conservation

January 24, 2007

When she was a teen, Dorothy Korb's parents took their children on a country drive around Tonganoxie. Just north of town, Korb said, she was amazed to find a lovely valley surrounded by rolling hills.

"It was so pretty and I said I'd love to live down there someday," Korb said of the valley. "I never dreamed I would."

Her wish came true. Korb, who is 82, has lived on a farm nestled in that same lush valley for 63 years.

Korb's farm was named a 2006 Leavenworth County Bankers' Soil Conservation award winner. The award is sponsored by Kansas Bankers Association. Damon New, of First State Bank and Trust of Tonganoxie, and representatives from Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Leavenworth County extension office and Leavenworth County Conservation District selected this year's winners. Other area conservation winners are featured on pages 8A through 10A.

Mrs. Korb has approximately 110 acres. Of that, about 30 acres are in the Conservation Reserve Program, 31 acres in hay, two acres in a wildlife area and 37 acres in pasture. The farmstead takes up three acres.

Dorothy (Warren) Korb and her husband, Clarence, raised their eight children in the house where, in 1915, Clarence was born.

And for all those years, the Korb farm has remained a working farm. The farm operation includes hay, as well as pasture rented to an area farmer for cattle.

That's vastly different from when Korb moved from her parents' home in Tonganoxie to the farm with her new husband. The couple had met at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Just three weeks after they married, Clarence's mother and father moved into Tonganoxie and he and Dorothy moved onto the farm.

At the time, Clarence was in partnership with his brothers, Fred and Ernie. The brothers had purchased the farm from their parents. In the early 1950s, Clarence and Dorothy bought their brothers' shares. Since then, farming has changed almost as much as the rural landscape.

Korb recalled when there were only three houses on their mile or so stretch of gravel road. Today the road is paved and a dozen or more homes line the way.

When the Korbs were newly married, they relied on horses and mules to work the farm.

Korb recalled helping put up hay in the summer. That was before they started baling the hay. Instead the hay was piled on the wagon and pulled by a horse or a mule to the barn where it was hoisted up to the loft.

"I was the one that got to lead the mule into the barn," Korb said, smiling.

Though she loved farm life, Korb was quick to note that some aspects of farm work weren't her forte.

For instance, she never acquired the knack of milking cows by hand. However, when milking machines were later used, she could help in an emergency.

Meanwhile, there was plenty of work for her to do around the house, with cooking and caring for three daughters and five sons. Marie Shockley lives in Excelsior Springs, Mo.; Margaret Ryan lives in Goodridge, Minn.; and Nancy Duncanson lives in rural Tonganoxie, next door to Korb. Two of Korb's sons, John and Allen, live in Tonganoxie. Paul lives in Oskaloosa, Richard lives in Kearney, Mo. And Phillip lives in Valley Falls.

While growing up, the children helped with all farm work. And in the summer, between chores, they immersed themselves in taking care of the livestock and in other projects for 4-H. Some things could come and go, but farm chores, on which the survival of livestock depended, were a must.

Those were lessons early ingrained in the children. For instance, Korb said, the boys couldn't go to baseball practice unless they'd first done their chores.

And there was the children's education to see to, as well.

For the Korbs, the proximity of Friendship Valley one-room school was a bonus. It was the equivalent of a city block from their front door.

The Korb's four older children attended school in the rural school, which closed in the mid-60s when the district consolidated with Tonganoxie.

Though the farm life demanded rigorous attention to crop, livestock and gardening, in some ways, life was simpler then, Korb said. Farmers had work to do on the farm and there wasn't time to go to town often.

So, outings were on Saturdays.

"You went to town, bought your groceries and sometimes you'd go to the show for 10 cents," Korb said.

And living conditions were different in her early married years. The Korbs had no electricity until 1950.

They weren't alone. For instance, the school next door didn't have electricity, either. But those who lived in the neighborhood made do.

"Whenever we would have pie socials up there at the school, the families that had Coleman kerosene lanterns would take the kerosene lanterns up there at night to the school so we could have our program or community meetings," Korb said. "Things were quite different then."

In recent years, Korb has continued her involvement in a Tonganoxie charity, the Good Shepherd Thrift Shop and Food Pantry. She was on the founding board almost 20 years ago. She's one of the shop's co-directors.

"I just love working there," Korb said. "You meet so many nice people and people that really do need your help," Korb said.

Her husband died in 1992. But she is constantly reminded of him. On the living room wall is a cross woven from wheat harvested from Clarence's last wheat crop.

"We've had a lot of good times," Korb said, her eyes sparkling as she recalled her husband's ornery streak.

She said her husband was known for instigating water fights. No one was spared when it came to dousing someone with water balloons or even buckets of water.

"You were lucky if you didn't get poked in the cow tank," Korb said, chuckling.

For Korb, life in the valley these 63 years has been good.

She was thrilled this past October when the trees showed autumn colors even more brilliant than usual -- on trees that can be seen on hilltops circling her home.

"It was beautiful this fall, it really was," Korb said, glancing out of the picture window, that like all the windows in her home, show the valley and rolling hills, much the same as when she first saw them as a teen.

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