QUINCY – Making something out of nothing is the typical plight for most farmers. It was no different for Jim and Minnie Buys who bought a modest parcel of land 50 years ago off of what is now Adams and 11.5 Road NW in Quincy, and turned it into a thriving spread.
It’s been a long-time in the making, but their efforts have been recognized by the Quincy Farmers Consumer Awareness Committee that selected the Buys’ as the Quincy Farm Family of the Year for 2017.
“It’s a privilege and an honor,” Jim said. “This is not a big farming operation – we’ve made it a family farm. Our oldest kid was 10 when we got here – she’s 60 now.”
Larry Williamson is a member of the committee that nominated the Buys’ for the award.
“We typically look for farmers who have been in the area for a long period of time who are also active in the community,” Williamson said. “Jim fits that bill. He’s been involved in a lot of things over the past 10 years – he helps run our tractor pull competition.”
Farming has been a way of life for Jim for 73 years.
“My dad immigrated through Holland in 1919 and ended up in Minnesota. I was born in 1933. We moved to Lynden, Washington when I was 11,” Jim said. “That year (1944) – the 8th grade was the last year I spent in school. My dad was 60 years older than I was and needed me to help work the farm, which I did for the next seven years.”
The only break Jim had from farming was at the age of 18 when was drafted into the Army.
“It was during the Korean campaign,” Jim said. “The war was actually over, but they still had the draft so I went into the service for two years. I did my basic training at Ft. Ord in California and my advanced individual training in San Antonio, Texas, and then was stationed in Babenhausen, Germany for two years.”
Jim married in 1956, and two years later he and his wife Minnie, moved to Sunnyside and bought a dairy farm.
“I didn’t like dairy farming much,” Jim said. “You didn’t have time to get sick or go anywhere because you had to find someone to take care of the cows. No matter what – under all conditions – you had to drag yourself out to feed and milk the cows.”
Jim and Minnie, having their fill of dairy farming, moved to Quincy in 1967 where they reside today.
“When we moved here we bought a small unit of land,” Jim said. “I had a few seed crops – some hay and some wheat. Some of the ground was No. 2 and No. 3 – not the kind of ground you want to be plowing.”
Though the years Jim and Minnie purchased several units of land and eventually came to own 240 acres.
”Hay and wheat were our main crops,” Jim said. “I did use dry peas in the rotation and that worked out real well for me. There’s not a lot of money in dry peas, but it would harvest early in the summer – then I’d take out the old hay and plant wheat. The following spring I’d plant the peas again and then plant hay.”
Jim marketed most of his hay to feed stores on the westside of the state and in Canada.
The life of a farmer, he said, is both arduous and rewarding.
“It’s hard work. When I got here, this land was barely irrigated – I had to do all the work myself,” Jim said. “The most rewarding thing – I loved living in the country and raising my family on a farm. I really enjoyed the solitude of sitting on the tractor and having time to think about things – I made a lot of decisions from the tractor seat. We didn’t make a lot of money, but we’ve lived a good life.”
Jim said he’d never given much thought to doing anything but farming over the years. He dabbled a bit as a mechanic working in a garage for a year after he got out of the military, and also for the local Ford garage prior to getting his farm up and running.
Jim fancies himself as a good wrench theses days and it has served his hobby of restoring tractors well.
“I built a shop in 2005 and have run close to 75 tractors through it,” he said. “I’ve restored five for Jeff Jones (Jones Farms) and just finished one for Todd Voth, the mayor of Moses Lake.”
Jim also has quite the collection of old John Deere tractors he’s restored. Among them are a 1941 Model LA, a 1944 BO, a 1946 and 49’ D, a 1946 H, a 1947 G, a 1947 and 49’ M, and a 1952 A. He also has a 1946 Oliver Cockshutt and a 1957 Ferguson in his collection.
“The 46’ A is a single front wheel tractor – only 1100 of them were made,” Jim said. “The 49’ D was the first diesel John Deere built – the one I have is the 639th tractor off the line. It was made in Canada. The 52’ was one of the last Model A’s built.”
Jim and Minnie have five kids – four girls and a boy.
“They are all productive citizens – I’m very proud of all our kids.” Jim said. “I think the farm was a really good place to raise a family because everyone – the kids all learned to work hard and do their part. Parents these days give their kids too much stuff they don’t earn and have know idea where it came from – what it took to provide it for them.”
Jim and Minnie also have eight grandkids and two great-grandkids ages 6 years-old and 18-months old. None of their offspring, however, intend to take over Jim and Minnie’s farm, so when they call it quits, it will be put on the market.
“The land is worth a lot more now than when we first bought it,” Jim said. “So it’ll be a good part of our retirement.”