Eugene Obery and Obery Farms
Eugene Obery holds a 1930s photo of his farm, which has been in the family over 100 years. AP Laserphoto Farm family lives heritage METAMORA (AP) When farmer Eugene Obery steps outside his front door, he sees history. When he steps out the back door, he sees history. It's the kind of heritage that would make any farmer hang onto a 38-year-old slip of paper that lists all the farm equipment he bought from his father a tractor, plow, three wagons, grain elevator, corn planter and other items all for $1,900. "Just a tractor like that would cost $20,000 today," Obery says. ' Obery's modern white brick house just outside this Central Illinois town is surrounded by farmland plowed by five generations of Oberys. It's grown from 127 acres, bought by Eugene's great-great-grandfather, Paul, in 1874, to 1,350 acres plowed, planted and reaped by Eugene, 56, and his brother Eddie, 59, since 1947. And each has two sons who have followed them into the fields. They also rent an additional 450 acres for the corn and beans that make up most of the Obery plantings. Obery Farms Inc. is a centennial farm that has been in the same family at least 100 years. There are about 5,000 in Illinois that are registered in the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Centennial Farm Program. .Given that farmers represent only 3 percent of the U.S. population and that family farms are being harvested by corporations, these centennial farmers are a rare breed, indeed. "It's not all that bad," Obery says. "There's still a future in farming." They're a breed, at least in the Obery fam ily, that isn't in danger of extinction. Eddie's son, John, 30, has wanted to be a farmer since he was a child and hasn't changed his mind despite hard times and bad weather that Illinois farmers recently have endured. "We're diversified, so these adverse times right now haven't been as hard on us, although these last two years have been the worst we've ever had in farming. We just didn't advance any. We hardly got any rain." It's hard to get Uncle Eugene to talk about the down side of farming. "I still say a farm's a good place to live. You might not make much money, but you got plenty of fresh air, plenty of sunshine and you always got work," he said. When he looks out over his land, he says, "I'm just thankful to be able to be here all these years."