Teamwork Through the Generations
The Felton Farm Legacy
In many farm families, the parents want their children to continue the operation and stay to farm the land, but sometimes those children have other plans. On the day he graduated high school, George Felton told his father that he wasn’t going to be a farmer. In some stories, this is where the legacy would end, but that wasn’t the case for the Felton’s.
Today, the 360 acre farm in Hardin County, IA is still in the family and falls under the ownership of George Felton’s three daughters Dorothy Kerekes, Frances Randal, and Marsha Stevenson. While their father pursued a career as a food chemist, the family spent most of their early years living in Hawaii. “We would go back and visit the farm during the Summer,” explained Frances. “But most of the time, we were away from the farm.”
So how did the Felton’s manage to keep the farm in the family despite living so far away? “Our Grandpa thought our Dad would sell the land since he wasn’t there to oversee the operation,” said Marsha. “But Hertz helped him keep it in the family.”
Several decades ago, the Felton family and Hertz started working together and helped keep the Felton legacy alive. “I found the first Hertz Farm Report and it’s from 1962,” chuckled Marsha. “We have a long-standing relationship with Hertz.”
Jim Frevert was one of the first farm managers on the farm and during the Summer’s when Felton’s were back on the farm he would stop in and say hello. “Our Mother (Ferne Felton) was a great cook,” explained Dorothy. “Whenever Jim would stop by, she’d invite him in, and he would join us for lunch. We really enjoyed those times.”
While food, laughter, and fellowship were fun to Jim, that wasn’t the only reason he would visit the farm. There was still a lot of work that needed to be done, and Hertz was able to get several projects accomplished with the help of the farm’s operators Dave and Don Diamond.
The Diamond Brothers
The relationship between a farm manager and an operator can be a delicate balance that takes years to build up the trust needed to work like a team. But in the case of Dave and Don Diamond, they just clicked with Hertz. “For us, it just feels like we’re working with friends,” explained Dave. “If we needed something done, Hertz helped us get it done.”
Over the years, Hertz and the Diamond Brothers have worked together a lot, especially on the Felton Farms. In fact, it was the collaboration between the brothers, George Felton, and Hertz that helped make all the grain storage on the farms possible. Because of the groups effort to get those built, the Felton farms now have grain storage for 100% of their production.
Grain storage isn’t the only thing that the brothers have been involved in on the farms. The Diamond Brothers have also worked on several terrace and tiling projects. “It would be wet in the Spring and everyone else would be talking about how difficult it is,” explained previous farm manager Bill Holstine. “But these two would be out in a tractor with a little bit of plastic tile. Wherever there was a wet spot, they’d be putting in tile and solving the problem.”
Jim Frevert was the first farm manager that worked with the brothers in 1977 and since then, the Diamonds have gone through two generations of farm managers. “The relationship that we have with these guys is what we try to have with all of our operators,” explained Jim. “When we have an issue, we identify it and work together to get the problem solved. That’s how a team works.”
“We have a common goal,” explained Mike Baltes who is the current farm manager. “We’re all trying to make this a win-win for everyone, and these guys farm the land like it was their own. That’s why it looks so good today.”
While the Diamond Brothers are definitely hard workers you couldn’t help but notice from their infectious laughter that they had a mischievous side to them. Bill Holstine let it slip that the brothers had a reputation for being pranksters. “They’re also known around here as the Joy Boys,” he said. The brothers let out a good chuckle after that comment. “We’re a little guilty of pulling the occasional prank every now and again,” said Don.
Whether the group is sitting at a picnic table and shooting the breeze or they’re talking business, the laughter stays the same. “They have fun and they do a good job,” said Jim. “There’s not much else you can ask for from people you work with.”
Continuing the Legacy
Every year, the Felton’s hold an annual meeting with farm manager Mike Baltes to talk about the Felton Farm Corporation. After meeting with their farm manager, the sisters would try to make it over and talk to the Diamond brothers at the farm.
Today, the sisters are pretty spread out across the country and visits have become a bit more difficult. “Our visits are not as frequent as they used to be because of the distance,” said Frances. “But we still plan to keep the legacy going.”
The sisters are slowly bringing their children into the ownership process. “We’re starting to bring our children into the board meetings,” said Dorothy. “The farm will stay in the family for another generation after us which is the way our Dad wanted it to be.”
“Working with families like the Feltons and the Diamonds makes my job very easy,” expressed Mike Baltes. “We all work together to keep the farm running. Family and teamwork, that’s what gets it done.”