Community sends off retiring farmer, supporter, neighbor
By BRYAN PECK
A large crowd of people gathered on the farm of Richard Bissantz, off of state Route 125 between Bethel and Hamersville this past month to send off a long time farmer and supporter of the farming industry. Bissantz officially retired from farming on April 13, holding a large scale auction with the help of Hess Auctioneers to sell off all of the equipment he had amassed from a lifetime spent farming.
Bissantz said he was just 10 years old when he first started farming. Bissantz’ grandfather, Henry Tucker, farmed the same location for many years. Bissantz said he first got started in the business when his grandfather suffered a heart attack. He started farming a small amount of tobacco at that time to help out
“My grandfather had a heart attack, and I just started raising tobacco on his farm to help out,” Bissantz said. “I raised tobacco on his farm for a few years.”
A few years later, Bissantz said his grandfather retired from farming entirely. Bissantz’ father, Henry Bissantz, continued to do limiting farming during that time. Bissantz said he took advantage of the farmland as well, and raised tobacco for his local 4-H group. After Bissantz graduated from high school, he officially went into partnership with his father. Together, they started to increase the farming business.
“We started getting back into it again when I graduated in 1964, and we bought the farm that year,” Bissantz said. “We started farming from then on out, mainly corn and soybeans, but some tobacco.”
Bissantz said he took over the business entirely in the 1980s.
“We farmed together over the years and raised mainly corn and soybeans,” Bissantz said. “My dad had a stroke in the 1980s, and I pretty well took over from then on out. I went up between 850 and a 1,000 acres.”
While Bissantz said he occasionally delivered corn to Georgetown, the majority of his produce was shipped to Cargills, in Cincinnati. Bissantz said he handled delivery himself, and had a truck on the farm to haul corn and soybeans to the city.
Unfortunately, Bissantz said he realized he is unable to continue farming, citing health as his main reason.
“I had a total hip replacement a number of years back,” Bissantz said. “The hip healed back alright, but my leg never came back exactly, and I never was able to go up a high step. I still can’t.”
“That’s the way things ended up, and I decided that I should maybe get out of farming,” Bissantz said.
To those considering getting into the industry, Bissantz said it can be very rewarding, but very stressful as well.
“You get a lot of stress on the farm, you never know what the weather is going to do,” Bissantz said. “When you have some bad years in there you need to make up for them on the good years. You keep hoping next year’s going to be better, but all you really know is that next year is going to be different.”
The most important thing to remember is to start off small, Bissantz said.
“You can’t start off big right off, I can tell you that,” Bissantz said. “That big tractor, 9220 I had, I said that started out as a little tractor cub cadet that we plowed tobacco with. Over the years we kept trading up until we got to that. You can’t start out big, especially not in the past couple of years when prices jumped up.”
A large crowd of farmers attended the auction, organized by Hess Auctioneers. During the auction, Bissantz sold off the majority of his farm equipment, including 36 pieces of machinery and numerous smaller items. The auction was also filmed by “Machinery Pete,” who attends many local auctions. Bissantz said he believes the footage from his auction will be aired on television sometime this fall.
“He called out there a week before the sale and said he was looking on the internet for something like that and wanted to come in to film it,” Bissantz said. “They’re going to put it on RFD TV in the fall, one of the premiere programs. It’s a new program they’re starting out this fall, I guess. He goes out to all these auctions all over the United States.”
Bissantz said he has no plans for his retirement. He is confident, however, that he will still have plenty of opportunities to farm should he ever get the urge to get back on a tractor again.
“I’m thinking of being a full time retiree, take it easy from here on,” Bissantz said. “My sister and mother-in-law were saying in six months I’ll want to go back to the farm, but I said no, not really, I’ve already got that covered. Three people have offered me, if I want to sit on a tractor, they said they’ll sit me on a tractor. If I want to be on a combine one year, they said they’ll put me on a combine.”
Bissantz said he will continue to live on the farm. The 1,000 acres have already been contracted out to another individual, who will continue to farm the land. Bissantz said he is glad he’ll have the opportunity to continue to watch the crops grow each year.
(Bryan Peck is the editor of the News Democrat and Ripley Bee in Georgetown.)