Harry Egnew, Linton, Ind., started farming when he was 14 out of necessity. His father, Leo, died, leaving an 80-acre farm with 55 tillable acres for Harry and his brother to tend.
“Our mother, Etta, found us a wagon, and we shucked corn by hand that fall,” Harry recalls, taking a few minutes out of a busy spring day to visit. “Then I paid $800 for a used tractor, plow and planter. It was a Farmall F-12 on steel, but it didn’t come with a disk. I later bought a new disk and built a sled to haul it down the road — that was before disks had wheels for transport.”
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That’s how Harry started farming, relying on a strong work ethic and working long hours. The same principles helped him grow his operation and later form a partnership with his son Tim.
Harry served two years in Korea, and then returned to farming in 1954 with his new wife, Beverly.
“A farm came up for sale, and we bought it using a GI Bill loan with 3% interest,” he explains. “It was 55 acres, and we were happy to have our first farm.”
Harry farmed with another farmer for many years. In 1972, he bought the farm where they live today, which serves as home base for Egnew Farms. Tim soon joined him, using a Production Credit Association loan to get his start in farming.
When GPS and autosteering technology became mainstream, Egnew Farms adopted it. “When they first told me, I thought it was about the dumbest thing I ever heard of,” Harry quips. “I soon found it helped an older guy like me feel better at the end of the day. Now, I wonder how we got by all those years without it.”
Harry has always worked to take care of his resources, installing grass waterways years ago. More recently, the Egnews installed water and sediment control basins on the farm where needed. They can do their own maintenance on these and other structures because they have their own bulldozer.
The farm practices minimum tillage, and they’re shifting toward strip till for corn. Part of the corn they raise is food-grade corn. They drill soybeans with an air drill.
Harry raised livestock over the years and has a 50-cow beef herd today. Currently, they feed out hogs on contract for a local processor, providing the labor and buildings.
Egnew Farms today
Harry turned 89 in March. He gave up planting a few years ago, but he still climbs into the cab of the big John Deere and pulls a vertical-till rig for field prep in the spring. Each fall, he does a large share of the combining.
The farm continues to grow whenever the right opportunity comes along. For 2020, a neighboring landowner asked the Egnews to farm his 850 acres, and they took on the challenge.
“We don’t go out looking for land to rent,” Harry says. “I always figured that if someone liked what we did and wanted us to farm their land, they would come ask us. It’s worked out good so far.”
Using services provided by Farmers Edge, Egnew Farms is moving deeper into precision farming. They use variable-rate applications of fertilizer, and keep careful, computerized records on crop fields. There is even a high-tech weather station located along Harry’s driveway.
What does someone who once shucked corn by hand think of so much technology? “Like I said about autosteering,” Harry says, smiling, “I don’t know how we got along all these years without it.”