Four Takes On Growing Up On An Iowa Farm

Autumn Ogden loads logs cut from a tree that fell on the Griffieon farm. i i

Autumn Ogden, 25, loads logs that she and her husband, Laramie, cut from a tree that fell on the Griffieons' pasture. Autumn is the oldest of the Griffieon siblings. Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University hide caption

itoggle caption Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Autumn Ogden loads logs cut from a tree that fell on the Griffieon farm.

Autumn Ogden, 25, loads logs that she and her husband, Laramie, cut from a tree that fell on the Griffieons' pasture. Autumn is the oldest of the Griffieon siblings.

Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Phillip Griffieon takes silage from the silo to feed to the family's beef cattle. i i

Phillip Griffieon, 17, takes silage from the silo to feed to the family's beef cattle. Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University hide caption

itoggle caption Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Phillip Griffieon takes silage from the silo to feed to the family's beef cattle.

Phillip Griffieon, 17, takes silage from the silo to feed to the family's beef cattle.

Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Julia Griffieon dispenses water in the hog barn. i i

Hogs forage in a barn on the family farm as Julia Griffieon, 15, dispenses water in the background. Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University hide caption

itoggle caption Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Julia Griffieon dispenses water in the hog barn.

Hogs forage in a barn on the family farm as Julia Griffieon, 15, dispenses water in the background.

Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
The Griffieons' eldest daughter, Autumn (right), stands with her husband, Laramie Ogden. i i

The Griffieons' eldest daughter, Autumn (right), stands with her husband, Laramie Ogden, in the family kitchen. Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University hide caption

itoggle caption Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
The Griffieons' eldest daughter, Autumn (right), stands with her husband, Laramie Ogden.

The Griffieons' eldest daughter, Autumn (middle), stands with her husband, Laramie Ogden, talks with Craig Griffieon in the family kitchen.

Elena Rue/Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

American Family Farms

Learn more about the Griffieon family farm in Iowa and four other family farms included in the public radio series Five Farms.

For many American children, summer vacation means freedom from homework, or from any work at all. But not if you're a farm kid.

On an 1,150-acre farm in Ankeny, Iowa, Craig and LaVon Griffieon raise corn, soybeans, beef, pork and poultry. They've also raised four children: Autumn, Nick, Phillip and Julia, who range in age from 15 to 25. The kids are the sixth generation to live on the land.

And as their mother, LaVon, says, "We obviously value work around here."

In the summer, the family usually eats dinner together around 10 p.m. so they can take advantage of as much daylight as possible.

"If you're doing something in the field ... you just hate to stop to eat supper when you can work in that other couple of hours and then come in and stay in for the night," Craig says.

NPR has been following the family in a yearlong series that examines life on an American farm. The latest installment looks at how the Griffieons hope to pass on their way of life to their children.

The Griffieon siblings' distinct personalities are reflected in how they approach the farm. That also may translate into their eventual roles on the farm.

Autumn, 25, is the oldest. She and Phillip, 17, are the two Griffieon siblings who "buckle down and get done what needs to be done," according to Craig.

Autumn graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor's degree in agricultural studies. After school, she married Laramie Ogden and moved to Colorado for three years. Last spring, she moved back to the Griffieon farm with her husband. Ever since, Autumn says she has been trying to figure out where her "niche is going to be on the farm" and how to add another family into the operation.

"So every day's a new adventure," she says.

Her younger brother, Phillip, also buckles down. He takes care of chores like helping his dad fill the planter.

"[I] do whatever he tells me to do and then listen to him complain to me when something's wrong," Phillip says.

Rather than play video games, Phillip says he loves his time outside riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes, swimming and playing football games or soccer games.

But the youngest Griffieon, Julia, who is 15 years old, would rather be inside.

"Seems like every time I come in and find her, she's sitting in front of the TV, claiming she's multitasking by folding clothes or sweeping the floor or something … and watching TV at the same time," Craig says.

Julia says she is in the midst of refinishing her great-grandpa's dresser to take to the county fair.

And then there is 22-year-old Nick, a student at Iowa State who calls himself the dreamer of the family. He's also the Griffieon kid with the most business acumen.

When he turned 13, Nick says, he and his best friend decided they wanted to buy a four-wheeler. And his mother, LaVon, said he needed to get the money to do so. So Nick figured out how to sell chickens at a profit. LaVon had no desire to raise chickens herself, because she had raised them as a child, so Nick had the flexibility to do it himself.

"When he first started wanting to do it, he thought in his head that if he raised 100 chickens and sold them for $5 apiece that he'd have $500 and he could buy a used four-wheeler," Craig says.

The Griffieon's chicken house is divided in two. Half of the space is for the hens laying eggs, the other half is for the broilers the family raises to eat.

"I started to figure out my feed bill cost me $480," Nick says. "I ended up losing money the first go-round."

Nick lost $13 in that first attempt, according to LaVon. For the second batch, Nick ordered more chickens and fed them corn that was ground on the farm, so it was antibiotic free. Nick raised his prices by $2, selling the birds for $7 each.

"So my feed bill had [gone] from $480 down to about $120, so we turned quite a nice profit," Nick says. "And ... I eventually did get my four-wheeler."

The family has raised chickens ever since.

"Eventually, I want to farm. In the long run, that's what I really want to do," Nick says. "The degree is something to fall back on, just in case. If I ever have kids, I'd like them to have the same experiences that I did as a kid."

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