Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — The Kann family farm a few miles north of Fairfield was among those honored as a Century Farm during the Iowa State Fair this past August.
The farm is owned by John Kann, who grew up in the farmhouse where he still resides to this day. Kann farmed its 240 acres until 2017, when a cancer diagnosis at the age of 73 forced him to turn the operation of the farm over to a cash renter.
Kann’s grandfather Bert Kann purchased the land about 3 miles north of Fairfield on Highway 1 in 1922. He bought it for $200 an acre. Kann said his grandfather had to take out a $10,000 loan, and because of the Great Depression that was about to hit seven years later, paying back the money was no easy task.
“My granddad got this farm paid for by the skin of his teeth,” Kann said. “The Depression years were tough, and there were at least two or three years they didn’t have a good crop to feed the cattle and hogs.”
Kann said his dad was born around the same time that his grandfather purchased the farm, and he told stories about what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression. Even though Kann’s father was a boy at the time, he was old enough to help with farm chores, and he told Kann about the terrible chinch bugs that ruined crops in the 1930s.
“Dad said they dug little trenches and put creosote in them to try to kill the chinch bugs,” Kann said. “He said we just as well had been sitting in the house, twiddling our thumbs because it didn’t do a bit of good.”
The farm house where Kann lives today was built by his father, Albert, in 1948 when Kann was 4 years old. The family tore down the original house that was there. While the new home was under construction, Kann, his sister Dixie and his parents lived in a small temporary house on the farm.
Kann graduated from Fairfield High School in 1963. Since he was the only son, he decided that he should stick around to work on the family farm as long as possible, and later took it over from his father when he retired and moved into town.
Kann married Becky Adam, a woman who came from a long line of farmers as well. For the first 15 years of their marriage they lived on a farmstead just north of the family farm, a place that he and his family had to fix up. John and Becky had two children, daughter Christi who now resides in Detroit, and son Daniel who now lives in Kansas City. For a while, the four of them lived in the farmstead to the north, but Kann said they moved to the main house south of there because it was nicer.
Kann has fond memories about how his wife and his mother Maxiene cooked meals for the farmers in the field, to keep them going during their long work days. In the 1950s, Kann’s father purchased a 100-acre farm next door for $400 an acre.
Like most farmers in the mid-20th century, Kann’s family raised livestock such as hogs and cattle, though he said he hasn’t had any animals on his property for several years. He was going strong with row crops into his 70s, but his cancer diagnosis made him step back from farming.
Kann’s last harvest was 2016, and luckily a drone photographer captured it, so Kann has a photo of his combine on that last harvest that now hangs in his dining room. Today, his land is cash rented to Casey Diehl.
“No one in Jefferson County has a bad word to say about Casey,” Kann said.
Kann said that when Diehl took over the operation of the farm, Kann wanted to help as much as he could, but not with the heavy equipment. Instead of working in the field, Kann runs errands for Diehl.
Kann said he doesn’t miss running the farm, but he does enjoy helping Casey with the farming operation.
“It gives me something to do,” he said. “You’ll never catch me sitting in this house in the daytime unless I’m sick. I’ve got to be out doing something.”
Kann said he was honored to receive a letter from Iowa Farm Bureau earlier this year indicating that his farm now qualified as a Century Farm. His two children and their spouses, grandkids, family and friends joined him in celebrating the occasion during the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
“It was a nice little deal,” Kann said.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org