Jason Kirgis is one of seven children on the branches of the Kirgis family tree. He and his family currently farm about 400 acres of no-till corn, wheat, and soybeans with cover crops. The Kirgis Family has lived, farmed, and played in the Seneca and Crawford county area for over a century. While the place that they call home hasn’t changed, the way they farm has. Some of these changes occurred simply because of changing grain markets or advancements in technology, but some changes like planting cover crops and switching to no-till were brought about by a desire to leave behind something better for the next generation. The legacy they have started is filled with stories of hard work, long days, fun traditions, and family values that can only be found on a family farm.

 

SCD: What’s the best and worst thing about farming?
Jason: The best, it’s quiet. The worst, I have to rush to get it done because of weather or other engagements.

SCD: Is there a day that you look back at now and think, “That was the hardest day of work I’ve ever had?”
Jason: There’s been a lot of long days. Working until 3 a.m., loading planters by yourself to beat the rain… Probably the hardest would be digging in a tile in by hand. We were repairing 600 feet of tile that was 3 feet deep. It’s a lot of work.

SCD: If you weren’t farming, what do you think you would be doing instead?
Jason: (Laughs) I’d have a lot more money. No, I’d probably be doing something in the engineering field.

SCD: Did your dad do any other type of work besides farming?
Jason: He worked 50 years at RR Donnelly & Sons in Findlay. 50 years and 2 days to be exact.

In 2016, the Kirgis family accepted the “Cooperator of the Year” award. From left to right: Becky Kirgis (Jason’s sister-in-law), Matt Kirgis (Jason’s brother), Jason Kirgis, Andrea Kirgis (Jason’s wife), Brian Widman (Jason’s brother), and Diane Sand (Jason’s sister).

SCD: Does your family have any traditions that you do on the farm every year?
Jason: A planting party. After the planting is done, we have a shop party with the family- food, beer, & euchre (my dad has an addiction to euchre). There are probably about 20 of us that will get together. Parents, the seven of us kids, and all the grandchildren. Three generations. There’s footballs getting thrown around, golf balls getting smacked into the field… We usually do it after harvest, too.

SCD: What is one of the funniest memories you have with your siblings growing up on the farm?
Jason: I was pretty young at the time, and it was funny to him, not so much to me, but my brother told me it was cool to pee on an electric fence. It’s not.  

SCD: What is the scariest tractor ride you’ve been on?
Jason: (Laughs) Well I wasn’t technically even on the tractor yet. I about killed myself trying to start it from the ground while it was in gear and about ran myself over in the driveway at the farm. I didn’t even make it into a field.

SCD: What about a time where something happened that you didn’t want to go home and tell dad about?
Jason: I snapped the hitch clean off the cultimulcher because I turned to sharp. It looked like a train wreck. I looked back and there was nothing behind the tractor. Dad wasn’t home when it happened, and I fixed it before he got back. He got to see the cobbled up mess that I welded. He didn’t really say much.

SCD: If you had to give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Jason: (Laughs) Don’t go into farming. I honestly probably would’ve started doing what we do now sooner. I should’ve gotten out of the dust sooner.

In November of 2015, the cover crop field day was hosted at the Kirgis Family Farm where they plant cover crops in all of their fields.

SCD: What do you want to leave for the future generations? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Jason: I hope the next generation doesn’t revert back to what I’m trying to fix or what I’m trying to gain. Hopefully they will do something better than what I’m doing, whatever that might be. I’m not saying what they were doing in the past was wrong, but I just want to give something better to the next generation. Not wrong, just evolving. We always respected Dad’s way of doing things, but we never insulted him by doing things that were outside of his comfort zone. It was tricky getting him to do what we do, but I think he sees the value in what we’re doing now. He was definitely nervous. I remember we were going to plant into 8 foot tall rye, ungodly tall rye, and he just looked at me and said, “What the hell are you going to do with that?” (laughs) I like working with dad when he says something like, “You expect something to grow in that?”

SCD: When you talk about leaving something for the next generation, are you talking about a bank account?
Jason: To an extent, but the true value is in the soil.  It’s not the amount of soil, it’s the quality of the soil. Quality, not quantity.

SCD: Does your family have a plan for what will happen to the farm in the future?
Jason: Our farm will go on to the next generation. There’s no specific plan yet, but we’ll work it out as a family. Everyone is involved. There’s always a lot of suggestions on what we should be doing but everybody shows up and helps when it’s needed.

You can list the number of acres, what they grow, and how long their family has been farming, but there’s so much more to the family farm than statistics. There are stories, memories, challenges, traditions, growth, and change behind those numbers. You can drive by and shake your head at him driving a tractor through rye that is 8 feet tall while he smiles and waves, but you don’t know that he’s thinking of his family’s future. You may not know that he is leaving better quality soil for his kids and grandkids. Farming is a business, but it’s also a central part of their family that brings them together; it results in happy, and often hilarious, memories. Family farms matter not because of the money made, but because of the values, memories, and traditions they instill in the people who are lucky enough to be a part of them.

 

About Kayla Moore

I have always been interested in how the different components of a system interact and affect one another. Being from a rural area and recognizing the importance of farming and the soil I was drawn to the idea of working with people who were involved in agriculture, conservation, and solving the problems in the lake. I like learning about and being involved in the many different aspects of conservation and getting to know the people of Seneca County.

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