Friday, February 23, 2001

Farm tradition alive

Lifestyle fading, but not gone

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON - Robert Maurer's family has lived and worked on about 240 acres of farmland on East Bend Road for more than 150 years, one of the oldest continuously operating farms in Boone County.

        But the 62-year-old beef cattle and sheep farmer has a tough time recommending farming as a career.

[photo] Boone County farmer Bob Maurer opens the gate to a feeding pen as his sheep scurry to eat.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        “If someone has the money to start farming today, they should invest that money in something else and sit back in the rocking chair,” the white-bearded former lawn equipment technician said with a chuckle.

        The farm, located just about 3 miles from downtown Burlington, pre-dates the Civil War. It has seen corn, tobacco, grain and livestock raised on its rolling hills and valleys, which drain to Gunpowder Creek, Woolper Creek and Middle Creek.

        “When we moved to the farm in 1950, there were just six houses between here and Burlington,” Mr. Maurer recalled. Today, the short trip from Burlington passes one subdivision after another. Across the road (Ky. 338) from the Maurers' brick home is yet another group of high-priced homes under construction.

        Mr. Maurer and his wife, Margaret, have one of the largest sheep herds in Kentucky, 80 head. About 30 head of beef cattle alternate pastures with the woolies, one reason Mr. Maurer was named Boone County Conservation District Goodyear Cooperator of the Year.

        Conservation is a priority for Mr. Maurer, who has seen the family farm go from dairy and corn to cattle and sheep and a little bit of tobacco. He is actively involved with 14 committees, including acting as treasurer of the Boone County Extension District Board and chairman of the county's Historic Preservation review board.

        “Conservation is important, because we must try to keep the land we have for the future,” he said. “As kids, we always had a field nearby to set up a ballfield and play baseball. But that field isn't there anymore. It's a subdivision. Land in Boone County is becoming more expensive every year.”

        His mother, Betsy Ligon, lives nearby in the original farmhouse, which began as a log structure and has seen several additions.

        “Last year was the first year she didn't rake hay for me,” he said of his 82-year-old mother. “She really likes to run the bushhog. She's very independent.”

        The Maurers have two children, son John who lives with his wife in Boone County, and daughter Betsy who lives in Bethel, Ohio, with her husband and two children.

        “My son said he'd like to be a farmer, but he can't afford it,” Mr. Maurer said with a grin. “He works for a bank. My daughter and her husband plan to move back here and build a house when he retires, so I guess they'll continue the farming tradition.”

        But he no longer sees the farm as a way to make a living without some outside job.

        “You could exist, especially if you grew some vegetables along with raising cattle or sheep, but you wouldn't make wages.”

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