The North Bend Eagle


Ralph and Harold Diffey both had jobs off the farm while maintaining the family farm east of North Bend.

Roots of family farm deep for those juggling two jobs

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 3/22/17

Agriculture has always been No. 1 in Nebraska.

However, agriculture isn’t necessarily No. 1 with a significant portion of the state’s farmers.

Farms whose principal operator has a primary occupation other than farming account for 38 percent of all U.S. farmers.

In the North Bend-Morse Bluff area there are a number of farms whose operators have full-time off-farm occupations, yet they keep the family farm operating. In celebration of National Ag Week, the Eagle spoke to some of these farmers who maintain their roots in agriculture.

Ralph Diffey, 83, has farmed the land that has been in his family since 1890. His grandfather Edward and father Harold farmed full time. After college and a stint in the Army, Ralph returned home and started working at Hormel in Fremont full time while helping his dad farm. When his dad died in 1964, Ralph took over the farming by himself.

Ralph worked off the farm for 30 years, expanding the operation at times to include a cow/calf herd. When he retired from Hormel in 1985, he continued to farm the 150 acres he owned.

Ralph said he always worked nights so was able to farm in the daylight. Why take on the addition workload?

“I thought I was going to make some money,” Diffey said.

What he likes best about farming is being his own boss,
“doing whatever you want.”

His son Harold has started to farm, but Ralph doesn’t see much hope in future generations continuing to do the labor on the Diffey family farm.
Harold, 51, lives in Omaha. He looks at his father as having three full time jobs.

“When I was growing up he raised row crops, had a cow/calf operation and worked full time at Hormel,” Harold said.

Harold is following in the father’s footsteps as he works as assistant superintendent at Shadow Ridge Country Club and owns a lawn care business in Omaha. He majored in agronomy in college with plans to farm, a dream he remembers having since a young age.

“By the time I graduated from college,” Harold said, “the cows were gone from the operation and my father had retired, so he really didn’t need me to help.”

This is Harold’s fourth year farming while continuing to work at his Omaha jobs.

“The weather plays a huge part in what you can get done in a given time frame,” Harold said. “Full time work has to be the priority as it is the major source of income. Our farm is smaller, so I can get done what I need to do on the weekend.”

Harold, the fifth generation on the Diffey farm, has made some updates on the farm and hopes to eventually use no-till methods to help with the timely planting of crops.

While Ralph will occasionally help out and they have someone custom harvest for them, Harold gets enjoyment from his farming.

“There is a certain satisfaction of growing a crop and bringing it to harvest,” Harold said. “When I am doing field work, I find it really relaxing.”

Bruce Fleming, 59, farms his family farm in the Morse Bluff area. The close-to-400-acre farm has been in his family since 1868. His dad, Curtis, worked off the farm also. Bruce considered going into farming full time, but because of the small size of the farm and opportunity to work off the farm, he has been working full time for Meco-Henne Contracting in Omaha and farming for 37 years.

“I usually have to take time off in the spring and fall to get things done,” Fleming said.

Read the full story in the print or e-edition.

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