Women in Agriculture: Experiencing 93 years of agricultural changes

Women in Agriculture: Experiencing 93 years of agricultural changes
April 14th, 2021 | Alex Voichoskie

At 93 years young, Wilma Haussermann of Arapahoe, Nebraska, has seen a lifetime of changes in the agriculture industry. 

In the late 1930s, before she was in high school, Wilma remembers her parents’ operation being very small.

“It was hard times. We farmed with horses and things didn’t grow so well then. The corn was little nubs most of the time,” she said.

But as the years went on, her family’s operation began to grow.

“When I started high school, my dad borrowed money from the FSA and bought 12 milk cows. My older sister and old brother and I milked those cows before we went to high school, and that’s how we got to go to high school,” she said.

Wilma said farming methods were a bit different back then, but when she was finishing high school in 1944, she learned to drive a tractor.

After that, Wilma started to learn how to run other equipment, like combines, semis and silage choppers, and became a vital part of the diversified farming operation she grew with her husband, Eldin.

Wilma was nominated by her daughter, Ruth Christensen. The following is Ruth’s submission.

“She started farming in the late thirties and early forties. Before she started high school, she weeded corn with a sled weeder pulled by a team of horses. She said the weeder looked like a snow sled. The runners were bridge planks. It had knives that stuck out on each side. The knives cut the weeds out of the ridges. The center of the sled straddles the corn rows. She stood on the sled, on some boards, that a team of horses pulled. Looking back, she said it was quite a dangerous job.

She learned to drive a tractor in 1944, the year she graduated from high school. The first tractor she drove was a Farmall F-20. It had rubber tires on the front and cleats on the back wheels. She said the tractor moved so slow she could hop off of the seat and walk behind the tractor.

She talks about windrowing with a bare back tractor. She said she did lots of harvesting. She comments that the first self-propelled combine was a big deal. She also did a lot of truck driving.

In 1974 there was an article about Mom in the Farm Wife News publication. The article said that “she and her husband, Eldin, operated a 3,700-acre farm with corn, milo, wheat, alfalfa, soybeans and crossbred and purebred Angus cattle. Besides farming full time, she makes time for music–playing a guitar and banjo, and works in extension, church, and is a 4-H leader.”

She has experienced a lot of changes in the agricultural industry! Her husband, Eldin, died of a tragic farm accident in 1984. She moved off of the farm to Arapahoe in 1994.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilma and friends were entertaining at the nursing home in Arapahoe with their musical instruments.”

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