By Thomas Wampler
Jobe Publishing Contributor
“You can look out that window, across the field and see the farm I was raised on,” said Glenn Barrick, pointing out his kitchen window toward his birthplace. “This has been my home for all my life. We dabbled in a little of everything back then and over the years – but that’s what most small farmers did in the past.” The land has always been the focus of his life, one that he’s shared with his wife, Betty, for the past 59 years. Together, the two have become icons of rural Barren County where they’ve farmed and given decades of service to the community.
While Glenn has lived in Barren County all of his 78 years, Betty is quick to point out that she was born a “city girl” who “married into farm life.” The Tennessee native’s family moved to Glasgow when she was 12 years old. She credits the welcoming nature of Glenn’s family as an integral part of her evolution from city girl to farm wife. Their marriage in September 1958 was the creation of an enduring partnership that has left its mark on the local community.
Respect for the land
Glenn’s late father, Roy Chester Barrick, instilled in him a love and respect for the land as a young child. “Everything was a whole lot simpler back then,” Barrick began, remembering the early morning hours and constant work required to farm. “My dad instilled in me the value of hard work and doing whatever needed to be done on the farm whenever it needed to be done. Day or night, good or bad weather, our responsibilities farming were our priority. My father loved his family and was determined to provide for us by farming the land he loved.”
Glenn recalls his parents – R.C. and Mary Frances – divided up the work load with most of her work responsibilities centered around the home. She oversaw the family vegetable garden and had chickens. “My mother worked as hard as my father just in different ways,” Barrick said. “They depended on each other in the same ways farming families had done for generations.” Frances was tied to her garden and the family garden is still located at the same spot today.
As the lone child growing up on the farm, Glenn’s work load and responsibilities increased. “My father taught me the right way to do things, what was best for the land and the farm,” Barrick stated. “We worked hard and we were always looking for the best way to farm but we didn’t take shortcuts when it came to taking care of the land. He trusted me to do what he taught me, and in that way, I learned how to respect the land and earn his trust.”
Changes in farming methods
One of the things Glenn is most proud of is the part he played in helping the development and implementation of “no-till” corn in Barren County. He does not claim to be the first in this area but sees his trials and experiments as “helping because I stuck with it.” Barrick said there was not much known back then, not a lot of written information or even guidelines from the University of Kentucky Agricultural Department. “I made every mistake you could make without explicit instructions,” Barrick said smiling. “It was learn-as-you go but, I saw the value, the potential to use the land wisely and still have a good yield. My father was convinced we never lost soil using the no-till method.”
“Everybody had a tobacco patch,” Glenn recalled. “Tobacco was important because farmers paid yearly bills, they depended on tobacco financially. They, the government, sent someone to measure exactly what you were to produce.”
“The government was involved as far back as I can go,” Glenn laughed. He said measuring changed from acreage to poundage. “Let’s say you went 15 plants over your allotment. They sent a man to cut it down. Later, if you went over your allotted poundage, then you just carried it back home. Everything was exact, no room for error.” When price supports were removed, many farmers simply quit raising tobacco. “Many of the little places – small farmers – just left or quit without price supports,” he said. “The profits were just not there anymore.”
“I can remember Glenn and his father stripping at night, late into the night,” Betty said. For most of his life, Glenn worked with only one other helper. “Neighbors helped each other out,” he said. “You didn’t hire help, you swapped work with your neighbor. Two or three neighbors cut yours and, then you cut theirs. We depended on each other and we were much more connected back then.”
“We did a little bit of everything,” Glenn said. “Tobacco, grains, corn, wheat, beef and dairy cattle, hogs, and hay.” Today, Glenn still grows hay, partnering with a younger farmer. “I am blessed to have a good friend, a good partner in the hay business, a younger fellow and hard worker.”
As Glenn has grown older, he’s gotten out of the beef cattle business but he always thought that being diversified was important. “If one area didn’t have a good year, then another area of production could pick you up,” he said. “My fences started falling down and my health was not as good, so I sold the cattle,” he said, smiling.
“As long as I got a steering wheel or lawn mower,” Glenn says, “I can still do some pretty good work. It [farming] gets in your blood and being busy, staying busy is big part of our lives.”
“I’ve seen changes. I’ve witnessed how farming has changed,” Glenn said. “About 15 to 25 years ago, I thought it was about over, technology-wise,” he continued. “All the new fancy equipment, new air-conditioned combines with radios, you just kind of had to guide. I convinced myself we (small farmers) are not dead. We are survivors. I can’t say for sure what’s coming next. Technology changes come so quickly but, whatever changes come – and they will come – we will survive. I believe in the young people and their ability to adapt.”
“You think you’ve seen it all, but life has taught me that change is coming,” Glenn said.
“You never stop learning new things in farming,” Glenn said. “Farming is an education that never ends and that’s the way it should be. God’s gift is the land and farmers should treat the land like a gift. Land can be bought and sold for a price but there is no sentimental replacement value, no price for the true cost of the land and what it means to farming families.”
“When you stand back and look at land you have improved, there is a good pride that swells within you.”
City girl becomes farm wife
Betty says she had been on family farms before living on one but it was a new experience for her. “Mr. Barrick – R.C. as everyone called him – was a sweetheart. I always called him Mr. Barrick or Mr. “B” out of respect. He did not feel like it was a woman’s place to be in the field but women had their work too,” she continued with tears in her eyes.
“We all shared what needed to be done but my place was in the home but this was out of respect. Mr. Barrick always treated me with respect and I loved him like my own father. I loved Glenn’s mom too and after they broke me in, I always felt like a part of the family. I thank God for the way they welcomed me and the way they treated me,” Betty recalled.
“Mr. B once got me to drive a tractor, just sit up there and guide it, because Glenn was gone and the rains were coming,” Betty remembers, smiling. “I was scared but he got me through it. I was big-time driving the tractor. We beat the rain and I was so proud to have helped him.” As for her father-in-law, Betty says he treated her like a daughter. “He was one of the finest men that ever walked the earth. He was a good, Christian man and the nut didn’t fall far from the tree because Glenn is cut from the same cloth.”
Advice for future farmers
“We need to protect the land and protect and the environment,” Glenn said when asked what advice he’d give young farmers. “We need to treasure what God has given us and help educate people in rural areas and in urban areas. We all are dependent on the land.”
“Starting out with all the complicated, expensive machinery and having the latest technology is expensive,” Glenn said. “Combines starting at $500,000 – cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. Land and livestock are expensive. Milking cows by robots – everything costs.”
“This is the life I love and this life has been a good one. Easy? No, but a life worth living,” Glenn reflected. “My granddaddy on my mother’s side bought 2,000 acres during the Great Depression,” he said, smiling. “He put together 2,000 acres of land because he was shifty enough to mash the size a dime until it was the size of a quarter.”
When asked for her advice to future generations, Betty immediately replied team work, support, and cooperation. “Support your husbands and support your wives, however you split up the workload. That’s the main thing – support,” Betty replied.
“Women are just as likely to be farming today so depending on their positions and involvement, the key is support. Times have changed but working hard and helping each other is still the key.”
“Glenn picked me and it all worked out in the end,” Betty said with a big grin. “We are proud of our families, our heritage, and what they stood for and passed down to us.”
Review the history of any farming-related organization or civic group in Barren County – as well as many in Kentucky – and you’ll find Glenn and/or Betty’s name repeatedly. Dedicated to the land and the community, the Barricks have spent decades in volunteer roles with a goal of making Barren County a better place to live and work.
Members of Barren County Farm Bureau since marrying in 1958, Glenn and Betty have served in various positions of leadership in both the county organization and the Kentucky Farm Bureau.
Besides Farm Bureau, Glenn has served on the Soil and Conservation Commission since 1984. “One of my favorite areas,” he said. “We have to take care of the land and all our waterways. We cannot abuse our resources. They are not making any more earth, it can’t be all blacktop and concrete.”
“We owe it to ourselves and the young people to take care of the land and instill that love in future generations,” said Barrick. “I’ve seen the good things we can accomplish if we work together. Soil and water conservation is a deep love for me.”
Betty’s roles in Farm Bureau have been too numerous to list, but she is also a valued member of the Barren County Extension Homemakers. “We’ve been involved in just about any educational activity, fundraisers, Heart Walks, Relay for Life, or whatever was on the calendar,” Betty said. “If there was a job to do, we tried to pitch in and do our small part.”
“We were not blessed with children but we were blessed with great family and friends,” Betty explained. “Lots of nieces and nephews, too. We’ve been given so much by so many. When we volunteer, we always get more than we give. We are blessed.”
“It is all about the community. Barren County is a great place to live and raise children,” Glenn added. “We have met and worked with so many good kids doing the right things, raised right, respectful of their elders and determined to do their part to keep farming alive and an important part of Kentucky.”
“I am so very proud of Glenn,” Betty said as she moved her chair closer to him for a photograph. “I am proud of my husband and our life together, the way we have taken care of the land and tried to pass that love onto others. We just want to keep busy and help whenever and wherever we can as long as we can and our health permits.”
“We have spent our lives doing what made us happy – farming,” Glenn concluded.
“Farming was/is our life. This is the best life – being a part of the land, working in the fields, getting your hands dirty, and serving others. It is not an easy life but a life I would wish for anyone. The United States was built on farming and I hope whatever changes come, there will always be a place for small farmers in America.”