GROWING YOUR ROOTS • Meet Farmer Shirlen Rosenthal

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The New Year seems to be starting off with its own set of challenges and I hope those challenges will soon be a thing of the past. At Farm Bureau we are happy and healthy and hoping to be able to offer some programs and activities in the coming months. 

One item to note as we enter the new year is that the Montgomery County Farm Bureau Foundation is now accepting scholarship applications. The deadline to apply is March 3. Six scholarships worth $2,000 each are up for grabs this year. The application is available on our website and provides details of eligibility, but of a few of the highlights are: 1. Field of study must be in an agricultural related field or a field that supports agriculture.  2. Applicant, parent or guardian must be a member of Montgomery County Farm Bureau at least one year before the date of March 3 and in good standing.  3. Applicant will graduate this spring from high school or previously graduated from high school/GED and will be attending college during the 2021-2022 scholarship year. For questions or more information, send an email to kwilson@montcofb.com. 

For our member spotlight this month, we’ll visit with long time Farm Bureau member and Montgomery County resident Shirlen Rosenthal of Raymond. Shirlen was born in Edwardsville and lived in Christian County for a short period of time, but has otherwise spent his life in Montgomery County. Farming has been a part of his life since he was boy and still continues to be today. At 93 years old, Shirlen is proud to have four generations on the family farm. 

“Actually, out where Dennis (his son) and Darin (his grandson) live, they actually live on the same farm (where Shirlen lived) but in different houses. Darin has two little boys so we’ve got four generations almost every day. You don’t really think of it until you get out old pictures and you can see the age difference between Dennis and his two grandsons. I can’t hardly believe it that I’m 93 and I can just about do anything. I get tired pretty quick but I’m in pretty good health. I go to dialysis three days a week but that’s alright. I can handle that. Like I say, if you’re gonna play the game you gotta follow the rules.”

Words to live by. Over his 93 years of life Shirlen has a lot of memories from the farm. What I think is most profound is that he remembers planting his first field with a team of horses. How many people can still say that? We also visited about his interest for agriculture in school. 

“My first field of corn I planted with horses, and I was probably 14 years old. We checked the corn. We had a wire to run through the planter. I did plow one time with a team of horses. We had an old 1020 International Tractor and I thought I was a big shot when I got to drive it. I took agriculture in high school, my brother was a sports star and I was never really interested in sports. I was in FFA in Morrisonville, serving as secretary one year and president one year, and I received the State Farmers Degree in 1944. We had a lot of milk cows when I grew up and I’d rather be out fooling around with them than sitting on the bench watching someone else get to play.”

I asked Shirlen if he had any memories of historical events or events that made the news throughout his life. Not only did he remember the interstate coming through the area, but also the equipment they were using to build it. The tractors weren’t like anything he was using on the farm.  He also recalled the changes in trucks used to haul grain over the years. 

“When they put the interstate through, they had those big four-wheel tractors.  We didn’t have those on the farm then, but they weren’t long getting there. There weren’t trucks like there are today.  If somebody had a trailer it was a two-wheel trailer. Not ten or 12 wheels like they are today. A lot of people hauled with pickups back in the 1970s. If you had a trailer it would be just two wheels - not dual wheels - and the tractor pulling it would only have one back wheel instead of two.” 

Before we ended our conversation, I asked Shirlen if he had any words of advice for new and beginning farmers or just advice in general. What he said next are words that I think we all should carry with us, regardless of our age. 

“Don’t ever think you know it all; you just don’t–that’s all. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions and there’s nothing wrong with trying something new.”

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