A Mother, Daughter and Michigan Rye

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 Gentner-Bischer and Rita Hereford work in their farm office

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.

Harvesting Rye

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. 

Farmer standing behind a semi-truck dumping rye grain

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. 

Farm woman getting in truck cab

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.

FarmHer holding a sugar beet in the field

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!

A Michigan farm woman driving a combine in a field of rye.

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!  

FarmHer in Michigan working on a tractor

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.

4 thoughts on “A Mother, Daughter and Michigan Rye

  1. Wow that wonderful strong farm lady. About 15 years ago October my dad last ride soybeans combine before death it was so fast time live after that my only one brother no sister he do everything thing now he still living farm all my him self sometimes his buddy Jerry come help drive combine wheat and soybeans,corn we do miss my dad he was strong man farmer and fox hunter all his life !! My mom was farm wife she 87. !!

  2. This story is AWESOME!! What amazing ladies YOU BOTH ARE!! You’re an inspiration too young and (not young 🙃) females with a desire to join the agricultural movement as a profession. Thank YOU FarmHer For finding these amazing ladies and sharing….

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