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Family’s goal: raising own food

Staff writer

When Evan and Becki Yoder of Peabody were married in 1983, their goal was to live as naturally and healthfully as possible. From the looks of their farm 34 years later, they have accomplished that. It includes a variety of livestock and a large garden, all for food.

The Yoders maintain a sheep herd and raise chickens for eggs and meat. They also have a few pigs, cattle, and buffalo for meat. Becki plants a large garden from plants grown from seed in a small greenhouse on the farm. She puts up a lot of produce. Last fall, for example, she canned 30 gallons of tomato sauce.

Everything they raise is shared with their family. Their sons have jobs, and two are married and have families.

“They’re busy and can’t do it, and we want them to be healthy,” Becki said.

Little Ryker Yoder likes to help his grandmother feed the animals. He pours acorns, grain, and food scraps to the pigs, scatters grain to the chickens, gathers eggs, and helps Becki spread grain in feed troughs for the sheep.

He is the sixth generation of Yoders to live on the farm, following Aaron, Perry, Robert, Evan, and Jacob.

There are two houses on the farmstead, the “little house” built in 1900 and bought by Evan’s great-grandfather in 1904, and the “big house” built by Evan’s grandfather in 1928.

The Yoders lived in the little house after their marriage and moved to the big house three years later, when they bought 80 of the farm’s original 160 acres.

The little house is now occupied by their youngest son, Jacob; his wife, Rylee; and their two children, Ryker, 4, and Tanynn, 3 months.

The Yoders call their farm “The Broken Y” because it has so many old buildings, fences, and pens. It includes an 1892 barn, an old granary, a milk house, and two chicken barns.

Evan’s parents retired from farming in 1983, the same year Evan and Becki were married. They sold their Grade A dairy, and Evan purchased 13 bred heifers.

The young stock began to calve two weeks after the Yoders were married that November. Evan was a teacher at Hillsboro, so Becki knew the job of milking would fall largely on her shoulders. Having a degree in biology, she approached the task scientifically, spending a weekend at Kansas State University to take a course in basic milking.

“I had to learn more about it,” she said.

She had grown up in town but was no stranger to rural life as she often had visited her grandparents’ farms.

As the children came along — four sons in the next six years, including a set of twins — she kept the littlest ones in a playpen in the barn while she did the milking. Evan helped whenever he could.

Evan artificially inseminated the cows, so Becki took more training to learn how to do that, as it had to be done at just the right time in a cow’s estrus cycle.

As the boys grew, they became involved in 4-H, and each had his own animals to care for. Daniel had chickens and two emus from eggs hatched in an incubator, Aaron had hogs, Allen had cattle, and Jacob had sheep and goats. Their 4-H animals didn’t have names. They were raised for consumption.

“You don’t eat your pets,” Becki explained.

After 11 years of marriage, the Yoders sold their dairy cows. Becky became involved with aquatics, supervising the pool and swim team at Peabody, and Evan became an administrator at Hillsboro. Becki went on to direct and teach aquatics at wellness centers in Newton and Moundridge. She retired two months ago after 40 years.

The Yoders are active in the Lutheran church in Peabody. Evan is principal of Hillsboro Elementary School. Becki is a substitute teacher and a free-lance writer.

When asked why they put so much effort into their farm while maintaining successful careers, Becky said, “When you produce your own food, you know how the animals are raised and you know what goes into them, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in doing it. It’s for our health.”

Last modified Jan. 10, 2018

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