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August 13, 2012 10:07 PM

Future Farmers Of South Dakota

Volga, SD

Farming is a tradition among many in KELOLAND, one that is not always easy to keep in the family. But one family has survived four generations and hopes to continue long into the future.

The year was 1933 when Ed VanderWal's father first stepped onto the farm. Now nearly 80 years later, Ed carries the passion his father gave him for farming everyday while working the fields on the family farm in Volga.

"Well, I was in the first grade when my dad moved here to this farm and I grew up on the farm. And that's what I was interested in doing more. And more interested in shoveling silage than going to school," Ed said.

But that love of working the land didn't stop with Ed. He's passed it down to his six sons.  Some of them run farms of their own now, but two of them, Scott and David, still work side by side with their dad every day.

"Well, I really did grow up wanting to farm because we got to learn the way of life and work with animals and machinery at a young age," Scott said.

"Good. They were always interested and were willing to pitch in and do the work that was needed to be done and help me along the way too," Ed said.

Some people might worry that working sun up to sun down with family seven days a week would lead to a few family spats. But for the VanderWals, the constant time together works just fine.

"When families work together on a farm, it's a challenge at times getting along. Everyone has to pull their weight and do their share. And that, of course, transfers from one generation to the next," Scott said.

"People talk about, 'How do you get along?' and I say, 'I haven't seen any fresh bruises lately, so I think everything is all right,'" Ed said.

And while they all get along like any family, with good days and bad, it's tradition that keeps each generation teaching the next.

"But we taught them to work with animals at a young age, like most farmers do. So it's nice to be able to pass that tradition onto the next generation," Scott said.

The youngest generation of the VanderWals, Ed's three grandsons and a granddaughter, all started learning the ropes at a young age.

"I started helping out here at a fairly young age. I don't remember exactly when. I started out with 4H and FFA and just doing whatever I could on the place," grandson Kyle VanderWal said.

That willingness to help might just be this family's secret to running a successful family business. Everyone agrees that when help is needed, a family member is always ready to step in.

"It can be challenging at times, but you know there is always somebody around to do the work. Like, I just got married I was able to go up to Ellendale for the wedding and we still had someone here to do chores," Kyle said.

Each of these family members has a different reason why they can't imagine doing anything else. For some, it's the time they get to spend together.

"Just that the reason that this all works is that the family gets together frequently and we have meals together and we all worship together at the same church. So I think if you don't do those kinds of things together as a family and away from work, then it's not going to work," Kyle said.

For others, it's the pride in what they do.

"It's a pride thing for American farmers that we feed not only our own family, but people around the world," Scott said.

For Ed, knowing his farm has been worked and cared for by four generations may be the best reason of all.

"Oh that's just fine too. It's a good place to be," Ed said.

For the VanderWals, farming seems to be in the blood. And while not everyone in the family is headed for the fields, they are all headed to be heavily involved in agriculture.

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