Farm Progress

Master Farm Homemaker: Bookkeeping and budgeting skills help keep the farm accountable.

August 29, 2017

4 Min Read
THE NEWBERRYS: Steve and Linda Newberry farm near Argyle in Lee County.

By Lynn Betts        

Linda Newberry has been the bookkeeper for the family farm from day one. “I had budgeted my own money and kept a book for my own finances before Steve and I were married in 1970,” Linda says, “so it just made sense to us for me to keep the farm books, too.”

That included keeping all the records for a Pioneer seed corn dealership she and Steve ran for 43 years. They’ve now given the seed corn business up, but Linda still keeps the farm books. “Now I use Quicken for our records,” Linda says. “Using a computer to keep records is so much nicer than the old way by hand.”

But the 2017 Master Farm Homemaker did much more than keep books: She was the face of the business, sitting behind the desk, answering the phone, and taking and filling orders while Steve planted their own corn. The couple grows corn and soybeans on about 2,000 acres and runs a cow-calf operation near Argyle in Lee County in southeast Iowa.

Family seed business
“In our early days, we had a party line. The phone would ring at the office and to our home phone,” Linda explains. “I was only half a mile away from where the seed was stored, so I could usually get there in time to meet a customer and fill his order. We later moved everything here.”

“Linda’s bookkeeping and budgeting skills helped keep us accountable,” Steve says. “She made sure we were making good decisions monetarily. She also did what was necessary to help make ends meet when she worked off the farm in tough times.” Linda worked full time in town during the farm crisis of the 1980s, and worked at the Farm Service Agency during the drought of 1988. She also ran a scale off and on for five years, weighing trucks at a nearby quarry.

On prison duty
When hog prices were going down in the early 1990s, Linda took a job as a correctional officer at the state penitentiary in Fort Madison.

“We had just bought out Steve’s dad, Dale, so we were strapped financially. I had submitted an application for the job years before I got the job offer. It had been kept on file and it just happened that they had the job opening at that time. I thought it was just meant to be for me to have that job,” Linda says.

“I didn’t mind the work, and it was a good paycheck. I delivered meds to the inmates, and worked the yard and cell houses for five years,” she says. “You were always on your guard, but most of the time if you treated the prisoners all the same and respected them, they respected you. You could be nice, but don’t be their friend.”

‘Pray hard’
Linda came from an all-girl family, but she and Steve raised four boys. One of the four sons, Jason, farms with them. Joshua, who lives near Argyle, owns and operates a landscape business. James is a regional sales manager for a seed company in the Pacific Northwest.

“Mom has always told us to pray hard, and to change the world globally by changing the world locally,” James says. Steve and Linda’s youngest son, Jacob, works as a missionary in Africa. Linda and Steve have 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Serving as membership chair, Linda was on the local board of the Iowa Farm Bureau for two years. She started a Camp Fire Girls group, but found 4-H worked better than scouts in the country.

“So I started a 4-H club in 1971 we called Corn Country Cousins, and led that club for about 20 years,” Linda says.

She also volunteered with the Handy Helpers 4-H Club when her sons were young members.

Devoted teacher of youth
Linda was a Sunday school teacher for 40 years and taught Bible school for many years. She and Steve attend Cowboy Country Church in Wayland on Tuesdays and Cornerstone Church in Keokuk on Sundays.

Last year, Linda experienced something few Iowans have: She was baptized in the Jordan River while she was on a trip to Israel with her church group.

Linda’s international experience was also enriched with a trip to Africa with Steve to see their son Jacob be married. Worldly experience came to Linda in two separate years when she and Steve hosted foreign exchange students in their home through FFA.

A student named Bjorn visited from Germany and a second, Karill, visited from Ukraine. The Newberrys also hosted high school students from the city, so they could experience life on the farm.

More recently, Linda taught preschool for a year, where three of her grandchildren were in the class. Just last year, Linda was recognized by the Iowa secretary of state for serving 24 years, the longest of any precinct election official in Lee County.

Betts writes from Johnston.

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