Four Takes On Growing Up On An Iowa Farm The Griffieons taught their four children, ages 15 to 25, how to run their 1,150-acre farm in Ankeny, Iowa, in hopes they'll eventually take it over. The siblings' distinct personalities are reflected in how they approach the farm — and may determine their eventual role in running it.
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Four Takes On Growing Up On An Iowa Farm

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Four Takes On Growing Up On An Iowa Farm

Four Takes On Growing Up On An Iowa Farm

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For lots of American kids, summer vacation means freedom from homework or from work of any kind, but not if you're a farm kid. We've been following the Griffieon family of Ankeny, Iowa on their 1,100 acre farm near Des Moines. Craig and LaVon Griffieon raise corn, soybeans, beef and poultry. They've also raised four children - Autumn, Nick, Philip and Julia - and their story comes to us from John Biewen of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Ms. AUTUMN OGDEN (Farmer): These are the little turkeys. Yeah, they're three and a half weeks old. They're - these are the heritage turkeys and so there's a mixture of bourbon red, blue slate, the two chocolate turkeys, standard bronze and Narragansett and royal palm in here. The heritage turkeys, it takes quite a bit longer to finish. It's about 28 weeks. They'll be ready for this Thanksgiving.

My name is Autumn Ogden and I'm 25 years old and I'm the oldest of the four Griffieon children. I graduated from Iowa State. I got a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Studies, then I moved to Colorado with my husband Laramie. We got married and lived in Colorado. And I've been there for three years and moved back last spring and have just been figuring out where my niche is going to be on the farm and how we're going to work adding another family into our farming operation. So every day is a new adventure.

(Soundbite of people talking)

Ms. LAVON GRIFFIEON (Farmer): Is there any ketchup out? Julia, while you're not doing anything, could you unload the dishwasher so I could sit down to eat?

I'm LaVon Griffieon. We live on my husband's family farm. Our kids are the sixth generation to be on the land, the fifth generation to be in this house.

We usually eat at 10:00 at night.

Mr. CRAIG GRIFFIEON (Farmer): Usually 9:00.

Ms. OGDEN: I start at 9.

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: We start at 9. You just hate that, you know, like, you're doing something in the field or something, you got a couple of hours of daylight left and you just hate to stop to eat supper when you can work that other couple of hours and then come in and stay in for the night.

Ms. L. GRIFFIEON: Obviously, we value work around here.

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: Philip and Autumn are a lot alike. They both buckle down and get done what needs to be done.

Mr. PHILIP GRIFFIEON: Yeah. I basically just help Dad fill the planter, do whatever he tells me to do, and then listen to him complain to me when something's wrong, do chores and that's about it.

Ms. L. GRIFFIEON: Philip is 17.

Mr. P. GRIFFIEON: I don't like TV or video games or anything like that. I'd rather be outside. We go and ride four-wheelers and dirt bikes, play tag on them. We'll go swimming or play football games. Once it gets dark, we'll get the spotlights from the shop and set those up in the yard.

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: And Julia, now that's another case.

Ms. JULIA GRIFFIEON: I'm the youngest of all four kids. I'm 15.

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: It seems like every time I come in and find her, she's sitting in front of the TV...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. C.GRIFFIEON: ...claiming she's multi-tasking by folding clothes or sweeping the floor or something but - you know, and watching TV at the same time.

Ms. J. GRIFFIEON: I'm finishing my great grandpa's dresser to take to the county fair. You have to strip it and then you have to sand it and stain it and varnish it and buff it. There's a lot of sanding, just put it that way.

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: Nick, he...

Ms. L. GRIFFIEON: He's a student at Iowa State University.

Mr. NICK GRIFFIEON (Student, Iowa State University): I'm 22 years old.

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: If he can find some way of - where it benefits him, then he'll do it.

Mr. N. GRIFFIEON: I'm kind of the dreamer, I'd say, of the family. And when I turned 13, me and my best friend decided we wanted to buy a four-wheeler. And Mom said if you want a four-wheeler, then you need to get the money to buy a four-wheeler.

(Soundbite of chickens clucking)

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: This chicken house is quartered off. This half is for the laying hens, the other half is for the small - we raise broilers, which are the eating chickens.

Ms. L. GRIFFIEON: I had no desire to raise chickens, having done it as a kid. My son wanted to raise chickens.

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: Nick, 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.

Mr. N. GRIFFIEON: And then I started to figure out my feed bill cost me $480. I ended up losing money the first go-round.

Ms. L. GRIFFIEON: He was in the hole 13 bucks. And so, then the second batch, he ordered - I think he ordered more chickens and got his corn from Craig and started grinding his own. And then, there were no antibiotics in it, so it was a value added. And he upped the price of his chickens...

Mr. C. GRIFFIEON: To $7 a bird.

Mr. N. GRIFFIEON: Sold all of those, my feed bill went from $400 down to about a hundred and twenty-something dollars. So, we turned quite a nice profit and I eventually did get my four-wheeler.

Ms. L. GRIFFIEON: And years later, we've been raising chickens ever since.

Mr. N. GRIFFIEON: Eventually, I want to farm. That's - in the long run, that's what I really want to do. The degree is really just something kind of to fall back on, just in case. I mean, yeah, there's hard work at times, but if I ever have kids, I'd like them to have the same experiences that I did as a kid.

NORRIS: Our farm stories are produced by John Biewen of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

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