Beverly Searle shares views ahead for farm, family
Great nations are made within the walls of individual homes, and this is no more profoundly evident than at the home of Beverly Searle as she talks about life on the farm, her family and her recent trip to Washington, D.C., as part of the National Potato Council Potato D.C. Fly-In.
Beverly and her husband Craig farm with his four brothers east of Burley, Idaho, growing 900 acres of potatoes for processing with McCain Foods, Simplot and Lamb Weston. Sugar beets, barley, wheat, corn, oats and alfalfa are grown in a four- or five-year rotation with their potatoes. They also milk 500 head of Holsteins on a dairy started in 1974. The name of their farm is Moo View Cow Palace, an acknowledgement of the dairy operation. They also have a mixed-breed commercial beef herd of 120 head.
In late March, all but 13 head had already calved. Each morning, Beverly, Craig and their youngest daughter Melanie ride out to check on the herd, meticulously recording the status of cows that have recently calved and those who have yet to deliver. Later toward evening, these note cards are referenced and updated as they once again ride out to check on the cows.
“Craig farms with his brothers, he has two older and two younger,” Beverly said. “Cloyd does the books. Kent speaks Spanish and takes care of the dairy. Craig takes care of the fertilizer, crop nutrition and contracts. Clifford takes care of buying new equipment and crop rotations. Kelly takes care of the cellars and herd health for both the dairy and the beef cows.
“I help Craig with the fertilizer, by entering all of the products that are applied on the fields onto spreadsheets, so we’ll have a complete record of what was spent to grow the crops. I also create and maintain spreadsheets on truck weights and loads for barley and grain that we sell in town.”
Beverly also trains the new truck drivers, and safety is an absolute priority.
“I always tell them two things that they must remember,” she said. “The first thing: You never run a stop sign; you always stop. I don’t care if you have to shift down 13 gears, drivers must stop at the stop signs. The number two rule is, you don’t ever hit the boom.”
She describes how hitting a loaded boom, whether it’s on a potato or sugar beet harvester, can cause it to twist and damage the machine, causing delays in the field while repairs are being made.
“If you hit the boom on a harvester with your truck, you’d better just go home,” she said.
While Beverly talks about farming and family at her kitchen table, a wall behind her provides an appropriate backdrop. Under a tole-painted wooden sign advising “Live well. Laugh often. Love much,” hang eight framed photos of her children.
Beverly runs through their names, professions and where they live. There’s Holly, a nurse, in Twin Falls, Idaho, followed by Mary, another nurse in Ashton, Idaho. Julie is a school teacher in Blackfoot, Idaho; Wendy, a dental hygienist in Woods Cross, Utah; and Shelley, another nurse, lives in Salt Lake City. Mitchell, their first son, farms with the family in Burley; and Chad, another son, just finished college at Brigham Young University, Idaho, in Rexburg. He plans to return to Burley to farm after he completes a semester working on an LDS church dairy in Elberta, Utah.
Melanie is a junior at Burley High School. She is a member of the FFA and has several projects – raising goats, riding horses and caring for livestock. She also grows her own potatoes and sugar beets with the help of her mother and father. She has a keen interest in farming and plans to pursue a career in agriculture.
The Searles have 19 grandchildren.
“Just about all of (our kids) have said, ‘We want to send our kids to you for the summer to learn how to work on the farm.’ This is because our children realize the value of working, and learning to work at an early age. They’ve learned how to get up early, be responsible, go out and move the irrigation water, and how to problem solve and use common sense. They are determined and get problems figured out and fixed themselves rather than call for help. Nobody wants to call for help,” Beverly said.
Spudwomen wear many hats, and Beverly has had her share over the years. Besides working at home and on the farm, she volunteers in her community and schools. She has been a 4-H leader for 30 years, served on the Burley FFA’s advisory committee since 2005 and worked on the school’s PTO while her children were in grade school. She has even served as a leader in her sons’ Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops.
In February, Beverly traveled to Washington, D.C., with Craig and Melanie for NPC’s annual Potato Fly-In. As the Idaho delegation of growers trekked from office to office across the Hill, meeting with their representatives and senators, the Searles were active participants in these visits, relaying the potato industry’s issues, interests and agriculture initiatives. Melanie wore her FFA jacket and official FFA dress, and learned about opportunities at the Capitol in public service for college-bound students.
Beverly said neither side of the political aisle seems willing to compromise and find common ground to make government work.
“I found there was a lot of unrest in D.C.,” she said. “The president had just been inaugurated, and they’re not all supporting him. Neither side is supporting him, and there’s lots of chaos and unrest back there. They’re not pulling together.
“My father-in-law has carriages that he would take people to weddings in. For the team of horses, there’s a tongue on the carriage between them and a yoke in front, and if those two horses are not pulling together evenly, the carriage won’t move forward. The horses have to pull the same, or else it becomes a jerky ride.
“In government, on either side, the Republicans and the Democrats are not pulling together. They are pulling apart. I just don’t feel like anybody is pulling together, and that was interesting to see. Our representatives, Congressman Labrador, Congressman Simpson or any of them, doesn’t know what’s ahead, because nobody is united.”
Beverly contrasted this year’s trip to the Capitol with the first time she traveled to Washington with Idaho sugar beet growers in 1995. At that time there was more freedom to move around the Capitol building, the White House and other sites because there wasn’t so much security. During the Potato Fly-In, Searle noted how the potato groups were able to meet with more congressmen. The trip was productive in actually making more visits and doing less sightseeing.
“It was good to see how our government functions,” she said. “What we often see on TV doesn’t give a complete picture of what’s going on, and by traveling to Washington, you gain an honest representation of all of the people who are involved back there and what’s going on in our country.”
Back home again, Beverly has her farm, her family and a great view ahead for the future. As a woman in the potato industry, she is enthused with the opportunities ahead for both women and men. She looks forward with a brightness of hope, determination and lessons learned from hard work and resourcefulness along the way.
By David Fairbourn, managing editor￼￼