Farm and Family First for Spanglers
The Spangler kids strap into tractors and big trucks for family time during harvest afternoons. It’s a stellar after-school hangout by kid standards.
They play with barn cats and climb hay bales. They scoop the cattle barn and paint fence posts. And their farm family takes vacations, too, although they avoid weeks when they need to plant, spray, harvest and tend to calves.
“The kids have learned that at certain times of year, certain things happen,” says John Spangler, their father. “There are times when the farm has to come first.”
Farm life sets the Spangler family apart from nearly 99 percent of Americans. But their commitment to family resonates. Including the kids, three generations of Spanglers collectively invest time in their family, their business and the lifestyle their farm provides.
John and his wife, Holly, farm with his parents, Bruce and Sharon, who live across the field. The Spangler kids, Jenna, 10, Nathan, 8, and Caroline, 5, enjoy that proximity and the farm’s open space. Together, the family grows about 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Western Illinois. They also care for a 120-head cow-calf herd.
Certainly the animals – cows, barn cats and farm dog Mandy – bring the greatest joy to the kids. The girls also love nature. Their son investigates how machines work, whether tractors or four-wheelers.
And in all of it, the kids learn lessons about responsibility, work ethic, life cycles, accomplishment and defeat.
“They’re learning there is a purpose to what we do, and there is a purpose particularly in livestock production,” Holly Spangler says. “We raise animals and we care for them and want to provide them with the best life we can while they’re here. But they realize we’re raising them for a purpose – for food for us and others.”
Holly Spangler’s farm life, farm upbringing and writing talent fuel a successful career in farm journalism. The award-winning writer and blogger works as a part-time associate editor for Prairie Farmer, the nation’s oldest farm magazine. She works out of a home office and often writes while the kids sleep or attend school.
She focuses on family and farm priorities to balance her life. She knew when she got married she might need to drop her to-do list to haul corn or help with a calf’s birth.
“It’s way more than a job,” Spangler says. “A lot of us who are either raised on a farm or are farming now feel that sort of devotion to what we do.”
Holly Spangler participates as a farm mom in the Illinois Farm Families (IFF) initiative. She shares the truth about farm life and answers consumer questions about growing and raising food in the Watch Us Grow blog.
Illinois Farm Families Happenings
The Illinois Farm Families’ Field Mom program is now in its second year. The first year, nine Chicago moms participated in the program.
In 2013, 23 Chicago moms will be visiting six different farms. The first tour took place earlier this year when moms visited John and Steve Ward’s hog farm in Sycamore.
Upcoming tours include a planting tour, a visit to a specialty grower’s farm, a dairy farm and a harvest tour. The moms will finish off their year with a tour of their choosing in November.
To meet the new Field Moms, visit watchusgrow.org. Also, follow the moms as they share their insights through blogs (located on the website) they submit after every tour.