Ein Traum Von Amerika: The 2000s
Wulf is still farming in Idaho.
When Wulf Lebrecht was a youngster in Germany he had a dream to become an American farmer. Before he could do that he helped his mother and siblings keep their farm going when his father was off to war. After surviving the bombing of Dresden, Wulf became a world class athlete and was Germany’s National Decathlon Champion. Shortly after, he left home to go to America.
In 1955, after an eight-day voyage by ship and a few days in New York City, Wulf took a train to Idaho. His sponsor and employer, Jim Scheib, met the train and drove Wulf to his Twin Butte ranch in the middle of the night. When Wulf woke the next morning, he said, I went outside and looked around and there was nothing, nothing for miles.”
Those wide open spaces of Eastern Idaho became Wulf’s home and where his dream came true. Before he became an American farmer, however, he served in the U.S. Army. Drafted nine months after arriving in the United States, Wulf was stationed at a U.S. base in Germany. Since his parents’ farm was only 40 miles away, he helped them on weekends.
After returning to Eastern Idaho with his first wife, Carol (from whom he was later divorced), and their daughter, Wulf worked for a potato fresh-pack operation, a potato processor and a construction company. He also bought an old school house in which he raised hogs. Then he leased a farm at Roberts and later leased a dairy operation near Ucon.
In the 1960s, Wulf’s dream to become an American farmer came true. He moved on from being a tenant farmer to a farm owner when he bought the 320-acre farm where he spent his first night in Idaho. The Lebrecht family expanded to six children Belinda, Brian, Andrea, Christopher, Rowita and Adrian.
Wulf bought his second farm in 1975. Profitable wheat prices gave the operation a financial boost. Wulf’s father visited the farm and was amazed at how fast the potatoes grew in Idaho’s abundant sunshine. Wulf dreamed about becoming a bigger American farmer.
In 1986, Wulf bought a third farm, expanding the operation to 3,300 acres. Oldest son Brian returned to help grow potatoes, wheat, barley, hay and cattle. They made friends with neighbors who faced the same tough times during the 1980s. One of Wulf’s best friends was Bob Thompson, who was a U.S. bomber pilot during World War II.
During the 1990s, another son, Chris, returned to join the Lebrecht farming operation. Potato and wheat prices reached disastrously low levels. During the spring of 1999 farm auctions became common in Eastern Idaho.
The Lebrecht farm was in a tough financial situation. They planted 1,600 acres of grain, but a lender refused to provide more financing. The power company demanded $150,000 to turn on the irrigation pumps.
Then something remarkable happened. Wulf’s friends and neighbors came to help. They took money from their own cash-strapped operations and loaned Wulf the money to turn on the power. The Lebrecht grain fields and the farm survived.
Today, Wulf and Brian are still farming, but on a smaller scale. Chris and his family have moved to Rock Springs Wyo., where he has a good job. Wulf’s wife Karen and Brian’s wife, Terri, also have good jobs off the farm. Wulf, who will turn 72 next August during grain harvest, continues to live his dream of being American farmer.
Looking back Wulf said: “I never regretted coming over here. I did what I wanted to do, and I had a lot of fun.”
This is the eighth and final article in a series about Wulf Lebrecht, a German immigrant who became an Idaho potato farmer. More information about Wulf is available by visiting www.eintraumvonamerika.de”