Sparks, dirt, sweat, and smiles are plentiful at Marion Machine. Family businesses are sometimes difficult to continue to the next generation especially in a small town. But you’ll see that hard work, the love of family, and the respect of a tough profession keep this business, the area farmers, and the land they care for – growing.
It’s harvest time in KELOLAND. Farmers and ranchers and families make such a difference for all of us. Now, let me share a story of someone who’s making a difference for them, as well. “When I came into town, I was trying to find, you know, what is that hidden inspirational story in Marion. I went to Donlin’s Grocery Store. I go to the back room and here are these, about a dozen farmers from all over this community. You know, they were tough men, and they probably weren’t in the best of moods when I barged in on their coffee that day, but when I asked them about the most inspirational story in Marion. They started talking about you, Huether recalled.
The humble man that they are talking about is Gary Luke, owner of Marion Machine in Marion, South Dakota. “I don’t know how I can inspire them. This is what I do for a living and I like helping people out. I was brought up that way. You help your neighbor,” Gary Luke said.
So many of us take farmers and ranchers for granted, including those hardworking men and women behind the scenes. “We got to get the crop in in the Spring. We got to get the crop out in the Fall. In between, we have hogs, cattle, spraying. We have a big elevator out here that has fertilizer, spraying. Of course, they handle the crops. We have an ethanol plant they buy a lot of steel. We are always trying to help somebody out,” Gary Luke said.
But don’t kid anybody, this is hard and demanding work. “It is hard to find somebody that will work on some of this stuff that they bring in. Manure spreaders. It’s dirty. It is always greasy, grimy, dirty, painted up. It is about getting the job done. I think it’s important to get the job done. It’s important. Especially in a small town, because they don’t have a lot of choices in a small town. If you go to Sioux Falls, or Mitchell, or Yankton anything like that you get more choices. You can go over here and buy a bearing here or over here and buy a bearing, but in a small town everybody kind of depends on each other,” Gary Luke said.
And folks definitely depend on Gary and his family. Gary started this profession the day he graduated from Marion High School. According to his Dad and Grandpa, it has been a solid choice.
“My Dad, my Grandpa told me one time, this is when I was a lot younger and wasn’t married yet, and I said. ‘You know, I’m tired and I’m going to go and do something else.’ And he said, ‘You have a skill, you have something that very few people have. And I respected my Grandpa, I love my Grandpa and I thought my Grandpa was one of the best I have ever known, along with my Dad and they are cut from the same cloth,” Gary Luke said. Well, the Luke family genes run deep and they are strong.
Gary’s son, Phil, is also at the shop side by side with his Dad and Mom, Jody. “He’s been working in here since he was 10,11 years old off and on. He’d have to go swimming in the afternoon. He helped out, he had to learn how to run the machines, how to weld young. It feels good and I am glad. Hopefully, that we can keep it going and we can keep a customer base. When I first started there were a lot more farmers that farmed a lot less acres. Now there is a lot less farmers that farm a lot. It’s bigger. The machinery is humungous,” Gary Luke said.
Gary works in the front of the shop and his son, Phil, can be found in the back. “It’s very humbling for me just knowing where this started. Mom and Dad working late, late, late till 9 o’clock at night. Dad being gone at 6 not being home until 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night sometimes, because they wanted to get this up off the ground and wanted to help people,” Phil Luke said. And Phil has found that same passion and commitment for the profession that his Dad has. “There is something about doing a trade. It may be harder work. It may be dirtier work, but you realize in yourself that you are doing a lot,” said Phil Luke.
Just like those farmers I met that morning at coffee, Gary Luke certainly inspires his son. “Even I am still trying to get grips on how much he really does put in down here. How many things he has figured out that maybe the next guy hasn’t figured out. It’s a learning experience every day and it’s very humbling for me, because I see where I come from and I am proud, I am very proud,” said Phil Luke.
I was so motivated by Gary and Phil. It’s not easy work, but they’re dedicated to getting it done. A father and a son working side by side in a community where agriculture is the lifeblood. And that’s a heck of a beard, Phil. I so enjoyed getting to know you both. Marion area farmers are in good hands–they’re in yours.