Edward Luginbuhl farm featured in this post is one dear to me as it is the farm
on which Adele Trueb, my mother-in-law, grew up with her seven brothers and
three sisters. I have spent many hours over the years enjoying from Adele and
her siblings the often humorous, sometimes frightening and always entertaining
stories of life on this farm. Ironically, as there were owners in between, my
husband Tom and his and brother Steve now own part of the original land
purchased by their great- grandfather where their business, Dymotek, is
currently located. Tom and Steve continue to grow sweet corn on the land. Tom
and I plant a large garden there and silage corn is also grown on a portion of
the land. I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I did hearing it from
Luginbuhls Come to AmericaIn April of 1904 Fritz and Elisabeth Luginbuhl loaded six steamer trunks filled with clothes and household belongings (including the cowbells) for their family of thirteen and set off from Switzerland to build a new life in America. Emma, the youngest of their eleven children, was a mere six weeks old and the oldest, Christian, was fifteen. Fritz’s sisters Suzette and Louise were married to Kuperschmid brothers, Alfred and Ernest, and were living on Pinney Street in Ellington on what is now known as the Silverhurst farm. Fritz and Elizabeth rented a farm, which is now owned by Sherwood and Diane Aborn, on Meadowbrook Rd for a year before buying a farm on the corner of Route 83 and Main Street. The farm house is on the corner of Snipsic Lake Road and Route 83. Most of the farmland was across the street with a barn located where the Valero gas station is today. Fritz was not known for his farming skills and sold his farm to his son John in the early 1920’s. John successfully farmed that land for many years.
A $25 Gold Piece
Christian, the oldest of Fritz and Elizabeth’s eleven children, spent his teens and early twenties learning to farm. He was sent to Oakville Iowa to work on a farm there and then returned to Ellington and worked on the John McKinstry farm for several more years before marrying Bertha Schneider in 1916. As a wedding present Bertha’s father, Alfred Schneider, put a down payment with a $25 gold coin for a 25 acre farm on Lower Butcher Rd. This farm is owned today by Christian’s son Edward Luginbuhl. Ed recalled an intriguing story about the gold coin.
“I always knew the story that my grandfather had used a $25 gold coin as a down payment to purchase the farm from the Malloys. Ten to twelve years ago an elderly man drove up my driveway and asked for Ed Luginbuhl. The man told me he still had the gold coin that my grandfather used to purchase the farm from this man’s mother. I was delighted!”Christian Luginbuhl, Farmer
Christian and Bertha Luginbuhl raised eleven children, seven boys and four girls, as sustenance farmers, which was typical of the times. During the Depression Era Christian was in jeopardy of losing the farm when he could not make the mortgage payments. The farmed was saved by the good will of George Pearl, whose farm was on the corner of Route 83 and Middle Butcher Road. George made the interest payments on Christian’s mortgage until Christian was able to resume payments. Ed recalls that he too was often helped by the Pearls in his early days of owning the farm. He could count on them for a loan to hold him over until he received his “milk check”. Interest was never charged.
Ed recalled fun times on the farm as a child. He remembers climbing then sledding off the barn roof and onto a lean- to his father had attached to the barn to cover firewood, and sailing into the large snowdrifts below. Ed also recalls the time he and his older brothers convinced their younger brother Rudy to jump off the barn roof with their mother’s parasol that she had just purchased on a trip to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. They somehow convinced Rudy that the parasol would let him gently glide through the air. Rudy managed to survive the jump intact, but the parasol was ruined!
Ed describes his father Christian as a soft- spoken and very conservative farmer. He never sought to increase the size of his farm even when the opportunity arose to purchase neighboring farms. Christian was content with what he had. He grew mostly potatoes and tobacco as his cash crops, had several dairy cows and planted a huge garden to feed his large family. Most of the family’s food was preserved by canning and freezing in a huge walk-in freezer that Christian installed in the cellar of their home.
Unlike most of his brothers, Ed always wanted to farm. At the age of twelve he asked his father for a plot to grow his own produce. His father allowed him to use a two-acre piece in which Ed began growing potatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers and any other produce he thought people would want to purchase. With the help of his brother Rudy, they built a horse-drawn wagon and would peddle the produce through the “high roads” of Rockville. The wagon always came home empty.
Edward Buys the Farm
Ed was the fifth of seven boys in his family. His brother Urban was established on a farm in Tolland and his other brothers were established in various trades. He purchased the family farm from his father in 1951, one year after marrying Alma Lanz. It was not an easy start and in the first few years of owning the farm, Ed would hire himself out to the Bahler farm in addition to growing potatoes, tobacco and sweet corn. He also grew cucumber s and cabbage to sell to the Silver Lane Pickle and Sauerkraut Company. He had a small dairy herd of 15 cows and his goal was to increase the herd and become solely a dairy farmer.
Ed’s wish to have boys of his own to grow up on the farm quickly came true as four sons were born in the first seven years of his marriage. By 1963 their family was complete with six boys and two girls. Alma recalled how tight money was early on.
“I remember waiting for a calf to be born and praying the calf would be male. We had to keep the female calves to increase the herd but the males we sold. I needed that money for groceries.”
Ed shared this incredible story, one which would never happen today:
“In the mid 1950’s I was attending an auction, looking to purchase quality milking cows. I was pleased to find several quality cows at auction but knew I didn’t have the money in my bank account to cover my purchases. I wrote out the check anyway and when I returned home I called the agricultural division of CBT and explained the situation. The banker told me not to worry; they would cover the check and arrange payment for the cows.”
Ed slowly and continuously worked toward his goal of building a quality milking herd. Additional land was needed for growing corn for silage, which he gradually acquired throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. By the middle of the 1980’s Ed had grown his herd to about 500 cows, milking 300 at a time, and owned about 300 acres of land. The farm rented additional land on which to grow corn. Four adult sons were farming with him. Dale and Phillip managed the herd and Ed with his son Scott managed the crops and equipment. All was well until….
A Difficult Decision
Farmers sell milk by the hundred-pound weight. . (100 pounds of milk is approximately 12.5 gallons). During the 1970’s and early 80’s milk prices remained stable, reaching a high of around $15.00 per hundred pounds, but then prices began to slide, first to $12.00 per hundred pounds and then to $10.00. The lower the price of milk, the more the dairy farmers produced to try and make up the cash difference, thus creating a vicious cycle for the farmer and a glut of milk in the United States. In 1984 the government also began taxing the dairy farmers 5 cents per each 100 pounds of milk they produced. Ed and his sons were continuously using their credit line to stay afloat.
In 1986, the government- sponsored “Dairy Termination Program” offered farmers a way out of their declining profession. Within this program, farmers had the opportunity to place a bid per hundred pounds of milk they would be willing to accept to stop producing milk. If accepted, the government would pay that price for every hundred pounds of milk the farm had produced from the previous two years, and the farmer had to agree to slaughter his herd or sell it to a foreign country within six months. Ed and his sons had a difficult decision to make.
At first Ed was steadfastly against placing a bid for the government buyout. He had worked all his life building the herd, it was the only livelihood he knew, and he was determined to find a way to survive. His sons thought differently and when they laid out the accounting of the last few years Ed agreed to at least consider it. But how did one determine what to bid? Ed and his sons met with their county agent and credit advisor, and were dismayed when the advisors told them they did not believe the government would accept anything over a $7.00 per hundred pound bid. Ed refused to place such a low bid and agreed to the buyout only if the bid was $15.00 per hundred pounds, which represented the last highest price paid for milk. The bid was placed and accepted in 1987.
A Sad Day on the Farm
The Luginbuhl farm had six months to either sell its herd on the foreign market or sell it for slaughter. As the government gave no help with the difficult technicalities involved in selling the herd to another country, the decision was made to sell the herd for slaughter. Ed told me that he has hardly ever been able to talk about the saddest day of his life… when he auctioned off his herd. The heifers were sold in groups of five but the milking cows were auctioned off individually. A buyer came from New Jersey and purchased the heaviest cows, while the rest were bought by Utica Beef. A year later an auction was held to sell off the best of their farm equipment.
Ed’s steadfast refusal to place a bid far below market value resulted in some financial stability for him and his sons. They did not become wealthy because of the buyout, but his three sons who were farming with him were each able build homes in which to raise their families, and Ed finds considerable comfort in that. Because of their hard work ethic from working on the farm all their lives Dale, Philip and Scott were soon employed elsewhere. Dale found work in farm and tool sales, Philip worked in the printing business and Scott began a construction business.
Years After Farming
During the years after selling the herd Ed continued to grow corn and wheat, which he combined and sold to other farmers for feed or seed for cover crops. He enjoyed having a team of Belgian horses and helped a grandson raise and train a team of oxen. During harvest season he helped the few farms that remained in Ellington after the government buyout. Some of the Luginbuhl land is now rented to other area farms and some has been sold for home building lots. A parcel of land on Pinney Street was developed into an industrial park. The government Dairy Termination Program not only altered the lives of the Luginbuhl family, but also forever changed the agricultural landscape of Ellington and many small New England farming communities.
This post and others by the Ellington Farmers' Market can be found at www.ellingtonfarmersmarket.wordpress.com