CommonGround Nebraska volunteer, Hilary Maricle, was in the MIdwest Producer with her family and we wanted to share about her family farm. Enjoy!

Maricle Family Farms is truly a family operation, clear back to the 1870s when two quarter sections were homesteaded between Albion and St. Edward, just east of the Sand Hills in northeast Nebraska.

Add an 80-acre timber claim and a dugout home and the family was well established in Boone County. Now that farm fronts Nebraska Highway 39 that connects the two towns and the Maricle names remain as owners and operators, nearly 150 years later.

Brian (@mariclebeef on Twitter) and Hilary (@mariclefarm on Twitter) Maricle, and their five children, are the youngest family on the farm now. Legally, Maricle Family Farms is an arrangement between Brian’s parents and grandparents. The farm supports three generations, with two of them actively working.

The generational transfer is something they said needs to be addressed, since Brian’s parents, Keith and Mary Ann, turn 60 this year.

“Our goal is to keep what is there and take ours and put it together,” Hilary said. “Will we transition quick enough for Austin to come back after college? Austin may not want to, but will we have enough for the twins (Cody and Carson)?

“I’m thinking how will we get our kids in, and we aren’t in yet.”

Austin is 14 and Carson and Cody are 8. The three boys have two girls, Cassidy, 5, and Kate, 2. They all take active roles in the family operation.

“The only way to get the next generation to farm is to have them sit beside you,” Brian said. “They have to breathe it. We’re not stuck in gender roles. My sisters worked with the cows. We expect the girls to do everything the boys can do.”

One afternoon each week, they forego the babysitter and Brian plans a day so they can help as much as their ages allow. It’s no surprise that the Maricles farm.

Hilary’s grandparents farmed. Though her parents, Bob and Patty Esch, ran the grocery store in Spalding, Neb., she grew up on her dad’s farm and showed cattle with her mom’s family, the Valaseks. She loved being in 4-H.

“I had a passion, getting to learn more about ag, and not just cattle,” she said. “In the big picture, I knew I wanted to be in ag.” She attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with emphasis in the animal science program. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, with a focus on adult education.

After graduation, she filled a short-term position in the ag program at Boone Central High School in Albion, then answered a call to build an ag program back home in Spalding. She filled a teaching adjunct position for several years at Northeast Community College, then became a full-time faculty member at the Norfolk college in the fall of 2009. She teaches agribusiness classes, including recordkeeping. Her grocery story background helps with farm-to-fork instruction. She also is in charge of the ag internship program.

Brian also graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UNL and returned home to farm.
“I know not many my age came home,” he acknowledged. Actually, his parents didn’t come home right away either. His dad has an accounting degree.

“He hadn’t planned to farm, but finally realized that’s what he was going to do,” Brian said. His parents moved to the farm from Kansas City in 1979. Gordon and Irene Maricle, Brian’s grandparents, met at UNL and moved to the farm in 1949.

The farm had a Grade A Holstein dairy from 1952 to 2003, building a new milking parlor in 1993. “When my youngest sister went to college, the cows left, too,” he said.

A Simmental-Angus beef cow herd was started in 2000, building to 120 cows in 12 years. The herd is pastured in Boone and Greeley Counties. Hilary said the three-year overlap of the dairy and beef herds “made us better beef producers.” They used to feed out the calves but Brian said it takes so much capital with the high price of feed. “We sell all our calves now. It’s weird to not have them,” Hilary said.

Brian said he loves calving season and harvest, but misses haying. When they sold the dairy herd, they also got out of the haying business. They have been finishing 1,500 hogs a year. In recent years, Cargill lined up a supplier of feeder pigs, but the ownership changed. “So we’re in limbo,” Brian said. “We’re trying hard, but this hog thing is crazy. Hogs are over $80 and we’ve never paid over 60.

“We’re in a whole new level of commodities. It takes so much more to do things.”
Hilary said, “If the dollars and cents don’t work out, we’ll have an empty barn.” Closing the dairy, no longer feeding calves and possibly losing their hog business isn’t what the Maricles desire. “I want to be a diversified farm, so we’ll always make a little money but not a lot,” Brian said.

They continue to raise corn and soybeans. In spring 2008, Brian and Hilary bought a half section of land near Spalding, with the help of the Beginning Farmer program. Together, Brian and his dad have 800 acres of cropland.

All told, the Maricles hope to have enough for the next generation.  “When we had the calves, the boys handled the gates and they hated it,” Brian recalled, “but one week after they were gone, they missed it.”

Said Hilary, “It’s fun watching the kids get excited about it.”

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