I caught up with Debbie Gentner-Bischer, Rita Hereford and Rita’s young daughter at their Michigan farm. This time of year the family was harvesting Rye on their multi-generational farm.
Gentner-Bischer Farm in Michigan
Debbie and Rita are a mother and daughter FarmHer duo from Michigan. Debbie grew up in a farming family and got into farming herself with her first husband, Bob passed away from cancer. At that time the couple was farming about 400 acres and raising their four young children.
Debbie faced a tough decision; keep going or throw in the towel. Despite plenty of naysayers she decided to keep the farm and has been growing it ever since. She remarried and today runs the operation with her second husband, Allen along with two of her children, Chris and Rita.
In addition to rye, the family grows soybeans, edible dry beans, wheat, corn and sugar beets.
We started by dumping a HUGE semi load of rye that had already been picked into a pit where it was then stored on-farm for the family to use as a cover crop. Once the rye was dumped, the women worked together to get the harvesting head off of the combine and loaded onto a waiting trailer before parting ways.
Debbie hit the road in the combine and headed to the rye field while I jumped in with Rita to go check on a field of growing sugar beets.
Growing Sugar Beets
I’ve never seen sugar beets growing or up close and honestly wasn’t quite sure what they are even used for. Once in the field of the plants, Rita pulled one up out of the ground, showing off what simply looked like a really, really big beet! She explained that the beets are harvested and processed to remove the sugar and that sugar is used for all different types of food products.
We jumped back in the truck and headed a little further down the road to the rye field. When we arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes…the field was such a brilliant shade of gold. It was like I was seeing a postcard of amber waves of grain set to the bluest of Michigan skies!
Rita pulled the truck right down into the field where Debbie was waiting in the combine. She reconnected the combine to the harvesting head and was off…but not before I climbed up in the machine for a ride! It was quite the sight to see as the combine cut through the tall thick field of grain, pulling off the delicate rye kernels and filling up the hopper in short order!
Rita and Debbie were a pleasure to spend time with. They are women who have faced adversity head-on, to fight for the life they love. Debbie worked so hard to hand down the farming tradition to her kids, and now Rita is following in her footsteps and passing the traditions down to yet another generation of FarmHers.