By CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE,
Basin Business Journal
It’s not easy to find the Wade family homestead.
Oh, sure, there’s a roadside mailbox with their number in the middle of a cluster of farm mailboxes, but after that, you have to figure out which long gravel road to take — there are several — and then, even after you pick the right one, you still have to make the right turn.
Or not make the wrong turn.
And when you arrive, even on a cold, drizzly, late autumn day, you are still greeted by a menagerie of barking dogs, uncertain of exactly who you are, as well as cats, chickens, sheep and horses.
“I was expecting to get a phone call from you first,” said Shelly Wade, mother of five, a former high school ag teacher, and longtime FFA and 4-H volunteer.
Directions probably would have helped.
Shelly and her husband Darmon, with a little help from their five kids Elisha, Tressa, Ethen, Luke and Grace, raise alfalfa and cattle on several hundred acres of family land west of Moses Lake. But because of Shelly’s background as a teacher, and the kids’ involvement in 4-H since about the time each one of them could walk, Wade has also been heavily involved in agriculture education.
“I stay supper busy,” Wade said. “We all help out a lot of the farm, the kids help out in the summer, help with the cows. Then they have all their own projects, so that keeps them super busy too.”
The kids have 18 ewes they’re breeding for sale and a small heard of cows, and Wade says they frequently sell animals to other kids for FFA and 4-H projects. For some years now, Wade has been bringing some of her animals as part of her contribution for the Moses Lake School District’s Farm Day.
Wade said the family has been doing 4-H for nine years, ever since Elisha could start showing. She began with sheep, eventually adding horses and cattle to that. Her younger sister also show horses, beef and sheep, while the youngest son, Luke, showed beef and sheep this year.
“Ethen showed a goat this year, which was a new thing,” Wade said.
“It’s going fine,” Ethen said.
Being on a working family farm that needs everybody pulling together limits the ability to take their livestock on the road and show them. They regularly attend three fairs — the Grant County Fair, the Waterville Fair in Douglas County and the Othello Fair — but that’s about all they can manage during a busy summer.
“They like to go to various shows throughout the summer, but because of the farm, we don’t travel too far,” Wade said. “It’s busy here, we’ve been to Ellensburg and a few other stock shows, we do some of that.”
Elisha, Tressa and Grace even rode their own horses in Ag Parade, with their brothers following behind, picking up the poop.
“They didn’t want to ride this year,” Wade said.
The boys just shrug.
So farming is a habit, it’s in the blood, it’s what the Wades do.
“My mom was an ag advisor, so I knew I would be in FFA,” said Elisha, now a junior at Moses Lake High School. “Once I was a freshman, I started getting involved and did a couple of contests my freshman and sophomore year, and I loved it. So now, I’m the FFA treasurer.”
Elisha said she especially enjoys the livestock studying and the agronomy competitions. She hopes to study agriculture somewhere — Washington State University, or the University of Idaho, maybe — and possible focus on animal genetics.
“But I’m not sure,” she said.
“I just started high school,” Tressa said, “it’s my first year in FFA, filling the shoes, it’s kind of natural for me to do FFA, so I jumped in.”
Wade said Elisha and Tressa, both heavily involved with the local 4-H, also spend time helping kids with other 4-H organizations.
“It’s always fun to help the younger kids learn and figure it out,” Elisha said.
Over the years, the Wades have made quite an investment in the future. Not just with their kids, who appear to be growing up competent and confident that they can have some mastery over the world they live in, but also by helping, teaching and investing in others.
It’s the kind of thing farming needs to ensure it has a bright future.
“It’s good,” Wade said. “Ag has a good future.”
“And it’s a good way to raise kids,” added Tressa.