Agriculture in Centralia

After a tough time in agriculture in the 1980s, with high inflation and low crop prices, Jim Gesling, manager of the Centralia MFA, said that the past few years have showed a resilience in the farming community there.

While this year’s crop was not what was expected, he has seen a growth in the last three to four years that allowed farmers to spend more on things that hadn’t been able to in the past.

“It’s allowed guys around here to update equipment,” that they had been patching up for years and years, he said.

Still, other problems besides rain and prices affect agriculture. The job isn’t in high demand. Young people would rather work regular hours and make dependable wages.

“It’s a challenge,” Gesling said, “because more people want the 8 to 5.”

The recession has also caused an influx of cash-renters, people outside the farming community who buy land for sale, often by farmers whose sons don’t want to take over the family land, and rent it to other farmers.

As more and more land has gone up for sale, the amount of people working it has decreased. Farmers buy land from those unable to sustain their own and become what Gesling calls “mega-farms.”

“It’s harder and harder and harder,” he said.

Still, he has seen some encouraging signs in the past few years. More sons have begun to come home after college to work the family land.

“We have some good young men that want to come back and farm… and take over the operation,” he said.

Justin Romine is one such son. After attending MU, he returned to Centralia to work on the family farm with his father, uncle and brothers.

“I thought of other things,” he said, “but I knew that’s what I wanted to do my whole life.”

Romine not only works on the farm raising corn, soybean, wheat and some cows but also serves as school board president.

He remembers that during his school years in Centralia, many of the kids parents were farmers. Many of his friends helped out on the family farms.

Now, kids come from rural areas, but don’t have the same personal investment agriculture but only a familiarity.

“Kids are getting farther and farther removed from farming,” he said.

Still some, like him, return to the place they have always called their own and farm the land that has been in their families for generations.

“It says a lot about the people in this community,” Gesling said.

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