Staying power: celebrating 65 years marriage, 60 years custom farming

What is easier, to keep a family business going for 60 years or to stay married to the same person for 65? Last Sunday I attended two anniversaries. My in-laws, Heinrich and Emmi Stamm were married for 65 years on April 17th, and the Brütsch family in Ramsen, Schaffhausen held a two day party and open house to celebrate 60 years of their custom farming operation. There was a lot of reminiscing done at these two events. How much has changed, both in individual lives, our social environment and agriculture in these 60 or 65 years!

Grandma Emmi laughs at the stories her children remember at their 65th anniversary party.

1947, the year my in-laws were married, was one of the driest years on record. They’d just moved onto a newly built farm site, there was a pile of debts and in time seven children would join them. There was no tractor yet, no chemicals, no combine harvester. Much of the work was done laboriously by hand, in a time when women still wore long skirts to the field. There were no throw-away pampers, no automatic washing machines. We talk of the good old times, but Grandma thinks they weren’t always just good. She talks a lot of the hard work, but also of the great times they had as a family.

It's a far cry from that first Hercules combine harvester in 1952. The Bruetsch family runs a large custom farming operation.

Hans Brütsch, now 82, bought a gas powered motor to irrigate his field in 1952. He found it paid better though to use it to pump out water holes for builders, and cellars that flooded every year at the time. Cellars rarely flood anymore. The creek was corrected long ago so it would stay within its banks. With that first money he financed the first combine harvester in Switzerland and went custom combining. The director of the agriculture college was quoted as saying that this machine might be okay for canola and barley, but it would never work for bread or seed grains. The family has been custom combining ever since. Hans’s son Werner now owns the business and runs three combines – two Claas Lexions and a New Holland hillside machine. Besides the combines they run seeding and cultivating equipment, a sugar beet harvester, round balers that wrap for silage, and even a rock picker. That one surprised me – but Werner assured me there are a lot of rocks in their area and the picker makes them good money.

It's very much a family operation, with grandson Hansjoerg helping out when needed.

I see my in-laws walking slowly through the village hand in hand and know life wasn’t always an easy road for them to walk. There were serious accidents, financial setbacks, and family difficulties like everywhere else. Last Sunday we celebrated the fact that they are still together, love each other and the wonderful family they raised.

Hans Brütsch showed me that first pump, standing right across from the three modern shiny combines. It was a long road between the two machines too. There were hard times, with lots of work and disappointments that he told me about. Money and opportunities lost. On Sunday he was just very grateful for all that he and his family had been able to accomplish and for everyone that came to celebrate with them.

Neither is easy – whether to be married 65 years or maintain a family business for 60. Many fail trying. Families like these two are an inspiration to the rest of us to keep working hard at it.

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