Willy farm recognized by Missouri Century Farms program

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 4/12/23

VIENNA — Maries County’s University of Missouri Extension office recognized the 2022 Missouri Century Farms program inductee from Maries County, the Willy family, on April 3 at the 2023 …

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Willy farm recognized by Missouri Century Farms program


VIENNA — Maries County’s University of Missouri Extension office recognized the 2022 Missouri Century Farms program inductee from Maries County, the Willy family, on April 3 at the 2023 Beef Meeting at The Market in Vienna.

Victor Willy owned the farm, which is near the Phelps County line, for decades before deeding it to his daughters Donna Chapman and Karen Badger. Willy said that the farm had been in the family since the 1880s when his grandfather Henry Jurgensmeyer and great uncle John Jurgensmeyer originally moved to the 40-acre farm and built a house there. Willy shared some of his memories of growing up on the farm while living with his parents and siblings.

“We lived without electric,” he said. “We lived without running water. You had to provide food. We never went hungry, but it was very seasonal.”

When cold weather arrived, the family would kill a hog and make sure they had eaten it by the time the weather got warm. In the spring, they ate chickens. In the summer, the family canned food.

“In the basement of the house that my dad built, it had about a three-foot ledge around the edge where he couldn’t bust out the solid rock,” Willy said. “That ledge was full of fruit jars all the way around. It’s about 25 (or) 30 feet. My mom would fill all those up.”

“They’re two-quart jars, not one-quart jars,” Chapman said. “They’re the big ones.”

The fruits the family ate in the summer included apples, tomatoes and blackberries.

“Anything you could slam into a fruit jar, she’d put it in there,” Willy said. “And that’s what we lived on during the winter.”

In the fall, the family trapped and ate rabbits. Then, when winter came, the cycle would restart.

“We had no transportation other than a team of horses and a wooden-wheeled wagon,” Willy said. “If we went anywhere, it would either have to be the wagon or we would have to hitchhike.”

He remembered shopping at an old depot store about a mile from where the market is today.

“That was before all the convenience that we’ve got now,” Willy said.

In the 1950s, Willy’s family got electricity on the farm. A neighbor had to persuade his father that it would be worth the cost.

“He (the neighbor) said he would wire a good place for it,” Willy said. “He wired the place and was paid with corn flour out in the field because he didn’t have enough to keep his cattle in the wintertime.

“That was great,” he said about getting electricity on the farm. “That was a big change in my life.”

In the late 1940s, Willy’s father wanted to build a house on the farm, but he did not have much money to complete the project. He made his own rock-filled blocks to save on cement costs, which left exposed rock on the outside.

“If you see that house, you’ll never see another one like it,” Willy said. “It has cement blocks with exposed rock on the outside.”

In 2005, the family began working on fixing up the stone house.

“My dad had a flat roof, and it was pretty well deteriorated,” Willy said. “We put trusses on top of that and a steeper metal roof. Then, we went on the inside and tore out all the window frames.”

Other work they have done on the house includes adding indoor plumbing, wood paneling to the interior walls and box heaters to control temperature.

“It’s actually pretty cozy,” Willy said. “It’s a really pleasant place.”

Chapman lives in St. Peters with her husband John. On holidays, they visit the farm with family and friends from that area.

“Everybody from the city just loves it because it’s quiet,” she said. “It’s peaceful. They can catch a big fish. It’s a pretty special place to us, but it’s taken 17 years. And we’ve heard more stories from Dad since we’ve been working on the place than we ever heard before.”

“We’re all happy with it and glad to get it recognized as a century farm,” Willy said. “With luck, it’ll be a two-century farm someday.”

After the family spoke, state Rep. Bennie Cook presented them with a certificate and a sign to hang at the farm. Cook said that he had researched the farm and discovered that the Jurgensmeyers purchased it in 1883 from Mary Cook. Rep. Cook said that his family has members in the Spring Creek area where the farm resides, so Mary Cook was likely a distant relative of his.

“This is amazing just to have a century farm,” Cook said. “You don’t have many of these anymore. They’re getting few and far between because people are selling properties and not keeping them in the families like they used to, so this is a huge accomplishment.”

The Missouri Century Farms program has recognized more than 8,000 farms since 1976 when the program began. May 1 is the deadline to submit 2023 Missouri Century Farms applications. More information is available at the extension.missouri.edu website.


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