Farm Progress

Meet Fred Reichert, 2018 Prairie Farmer Master Farmer from Auburn, Ill.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

March 7, 2018

5 Min Read
INTEGRAL: 2018 Master Farmer Fred Reichert and his wife, Eileen, are an integral part of the farm they operate with their son and son-in-law. “They use hard work and managerial skills that have made this a very successful operation, and [they] are open to new ideas,” says their son, Mark Reichert.

Fred Reichert’s seen some changes in his agricultural days.

“When I was 10 or 11, my dad put me on a tractor to work the ground ahead of him, planting with a two-row corn planter with horses,” he recalls. “Now we run a 16-row John Deere planter with big hoppers and a tender. You turn the corner, push a button, and your tractor is guided through the field! It’s mind-boggling.”

That’s why, when this 2018 Master Farmer from Auburn, Ill., says it “feels like I’ve farmed all my life,” he’s not kidding. At 85, he’s still going strong, taking his turn on the combine or planter and helping make decisions as he farms in partnership with son Mark and son-in-law Jim Ringer, with help from grandson Neil Ringer.

Retirement? Not for this farmer. “Farmers don’t retire! They just die. I’d rather die in a tractor seat than in a La-Z-Boy,” he quips.

Indeed, Fred has had a good run on his farm in western Sangamon County — most of it spent with his bride of 62 years, Eileen. The couple lives in the same house on the same farm they moved to following their 1956 wedding.

Fred and Eileen had known of each other for years when he returned from service with the U.S. Army in the Philippines. By that time, she was working at the drugstore in Virden, and Fred came in for some toothpaste one day. In their telling, he gave her a ride home, and before long, they were married and farming 280 acres. They’ve raised two children and have a ball with five grandkids, two step-grandkids, three great-grandkids and one more on the way.

Sixty-two years down the road, Fred reflects on his bride: “I don’t know how we’d operate without her. She’s a pretty integral part of it all.” While Eileen has never driven a tractor, she’s traveled hundreds of miles hauling parts and meals across the three counties where they farm.

On the farm
It’s not lost on many in ag that Fred and Eileen’s legacy lies in their ability to have brought both their son and son-in-law into the farming operation. They share labor and equipment, and together manage about 3,000 acres. At one time they raised both cattle and hogs, feeding out cattle and farrowing pigs before transitioning to feeder pigs. Ultimately, facilities required upgrades, and the Reicherts got out of livestock, concentrating on crops instead.

“I miss the cattle. Not the hogs!” Fred says.

PICTURE PERFECT: Says 2012 Master Farmer Tim Seifert in his nomination of 2018 Master Farmer Fred Reichert (pictured), “I think if you looked up ‘farmer’ in the dictionary, Fred’s picture would appear. He is a good steward of the land and has passed on his farming experience to his son.”

Today, Fred, Mark and Jim operate a family farm corporation, enabling tax strategies, estate planning and well-timed machinery purchases. They multiply production goals by an achievable market price to determine sale points, purchase points and tax strategies.

“I can think of no greater reward than to be able to work side by side with Dad every day,” Mark says.

The Reicherts are conservation-minded, and while Fred says they “used to about work the ground to death,” today they use a combination of no-till and minimum tillage. They’ve installed terraces, waterways and filter strips, and are mindful of their position in the Lake Springfield watershed.

The greater good
For Fred, who began his adult life in the army, public involvement is both a privilege and a civic duty. He’s worked tirelessly in the community, helping build schools, celebrate sesquicentennials, care for cemeteries, raise funds, memorialize fallen soldiers and more. He’s also served with both the Sangamon County Farm Bureau and IL Corn.

Neighbor Kendall Cole, a 1999 Master Farmer, points out that Fred’s civic lessons took well in both his children and their families, who are also deeply involved.

“To watch this family’s pace of civic activity can be almost exhausting to many,” Cole says. “Fred is a leader, but perhaps more importantly, his style of participation is one that makes others successful as leaders. Some can lead, some can follow; he has been able to accomplish both with the ability to be a worker behind the scenes.”

For Fred, whose life has been measured in farm, family and community, the successes are small — and yet enormous. And there’s no end in sight.

“When I go out there in the spring and drop that seed in the ground, and I’m able to watch it grow up and then get in the combine and harvest it, that gives me a great deal of satisfaction. If I can get that done, I feel like I did a pretty good job.

“And next time, I’ll try a little harder.”

Fred’s lessons

You don’t make it through 85 years of life, 65 growing seasons and 62 years of marriage without learning a thing or two. Fred Reichert is both understated and concise when asked what he’s learned:

• Marry the right woman.
• Make sure you take care of your family.
• Pay attention.
• Keep your mouth shut.
• Be good to the ground. It’ll be good to you.
• Find a good lender.
• Quit trying to get that extra 2 or 3 cents. It’ll cost you every time.
• Don’t buy the latest machinery.
• Don’t be afraid to work.
• When you get knocked down, pick yourself up and try again.
• Be honest with everybody.


Fred Reichert

Spouse: Eileen

Children: Debbie Ringer, Mark Reichert

County: Sangamon

Operation: 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans

Leadership: Illinois Corn Growers Association director, Sangamon County Cooperative Extension Council, Sangamon County Farm Bureau Hall of Fame, Virden School Board president, Pleasant Hill Nursing Home board vice president, Virden School Foundation president, Virden Masonic Lodge master, U.S. Army in the Philippines, Virden American Legion Post Color Guard head, Virden Church of the Brethren chair

Nominators: Mark Reichert (son) and 2012 Master Farmer Tim Seifert

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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