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Unexpected moment celebrates a farmer’s life

Photos by Mindy Ward 2008 Missouri Farmer article
ARTICLE COLLECTION: Gene Reckamp was known for his progressive thinking in Missouri’s swine industry. He and his son, Dave, would try new ideas, like feeding cookies and noodles to hogs to offset high feed costs
Seeing my name at a farmer’s memorial service is not something I expected.

Tables lined the wall, each decorated with pictures and photo albums. I walked and looked through the life of a farmer. As I found my way to the next-to-last table, a bright yellow display poster caught my eye. It was full of black and white newspaper clippings. There, in the bottom right corner, was my name.

I’ve worked for only three agriculture publications in my entire career — one in Minnesota, two in Missouri. Not many writers can say that these days. Sometimes, like any other job, I get bogged down in the daily demands of a 24-7 digital world.

Gene and Marilyn Reckamp

DEVOTED: Gene Reckamp’s first devotion was to his wife, Marilyn. The two were married for 66 years. He reached age 90 before dying in September. Marilyn still lives on the family farm.

There is a constant need to “feed the beast” — that is the internet — and an individual’s “need to know.” But in that moment, while attending a celebration of life memorial service, I stood still and became humble. A farmer, this farmer, kept a story, his story, that I wrote 13 years ago.

I was not at Missouri Ruralist at that time. I was writing for a relatively new publication, Missouri Farmer Today. But this is not about the publication; it is about the person.

It was 2008. I had returned to my home state and finally started back in the ag journalism business. I did what any newbie would do and started looking for stories. Of course, you tap your friend circle first, and that included a fellow former FFA member from the neighboring town of Wright City, Mo., who was feeding cookies, yes, cookies in the family’s hog operation.

At Reckamp Farms, I met up with Dave Reckamp along with his new wife, Marylin, and of course his dad, Gene. Gene was a staple in the agriculture community. The family hosted school tours, was one of the first to use a swine composter, and was recognized for their farm management practices by University of Missouri Extension.

Gene shared his stories with many other ag reporters. Still, he opened the door to me. He trusted me to tell one small chapter in his swine production legacy. And he kept it.

photo board

STORYTELLER: Gene Reckamp was not afraid to share his story with reporters. He opened the doors of his farm to more than just me over the years. It allowed others in the hog industry to learn from his farm management practices. The family sells pork and vegetables at the farm outside of Wright City, Mo.

Farmers are a unique breed. In a throwaway world where everything can be replaced, they take the time to fix equipment, repurpose buildings and even save ag magazines. These men and women are so busy working to provide food for everyone. Still they find value or, better yet, give value to the things and people around them. It is no wonder why I’m in constant awe of their stories and so eager to tell them to the world.

These are the people I serve. They are the reasons I write. If only we all had careers filled with farmers like Gene Reckamp, who even in death found a way to honor others. What a life well-lived.

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