How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm...
Organization provides a chance for ‘country folk’ to get together
BY SHARON SEMANIE
“How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree” are musical lyrics which could aptly apply to the Singles in Agriculture (SIA) organization whose 400 members traverse the United States in search of “educational, recreational and social opportunities for singles who have an agriculture background.”
The non-profit organization, whose office is headquartered in Stockton, Ill., provides myriad opportunities for friendship, fellowship, travel, inexpensive events and a chance to get together with other “country folk” in a 20-state area, according to the SIA President Carol Jones of Dixon, Ill.
An enthusiastic retiree who joined the organization six years ago, Jones suggests membership in SIA “has allowed me to visit places I would never have been” including salt mines in Kansas and an earth lodge in Nebraska. Members travel hundreds of miles to renew acquaintances with agriculture enthusiasts whether it be state chapter sponsored events or three national events offered in March, June and September.
Emphasizing that SIA is “not a matchmaking group,” Jones said its membership is comprised of mostly 50-plus boomers — all singles — who enjoy the educational opportunities and social outlets afforded its members.
SIA was formed in the mid-1980s after a single farmer sent a letter to Farm Journal magazine expressing the difficulties of meeting single women interested in a rural lifestyle. His letter prompted magazine staffer Meg Gaige to pen several articles on the social lives of single farm people. In one of her columns, Gaige asked single reader to send in their name, address and a 50-word biography. The national magazine reportedly received more than 2,700 responses
In the summer of 1985, Iowan Marcella Spindler volunteered to handle correspondence from those interested in forming a singles organization and, one year later, 23 people met in Peoria, Ill. to “take the necessary steps to make SIA an official organization.”
“Even though we have had people meet and marry that isn’t the main purpose of the group. At almost all of our get-togethers we end with a dance. We don’t promote smoking or drinking,” notes the charter. To that end, Jones quips “We’ve had 20 couples get married (as a result of SIA membership) who are now known as Singles No More.”
The national fall festival event is scheduled in Hannibal, Mo., the weekend of Sept. 6–9. Members will tour the Mark Twain Home and Museum and enjoy a trolley tour and leisurely cruise the Mississippi River. In between will be evening dinner dances and opportunities to tour the city. On Sunday, adds Jones “we’ll get together for breakfast, hugs and goodbyes.”
This marks the 20th year the SIA chapter in Illinois will host the annual Thanksgiving dinner. “At least 10 people from six or seven states drive to a community center in a small Illinois town where we prepare turkey, homemade dressing and mashed potatoes and all the trimmings,” she noted. Everyone brings a dish to pass and following dinner, we dance during the afternoon, enjoy leftovers at 5 p.m. and go home.”
Jones fondly recalls the first time she was involved in the Thanksgiving feast. “I was amazed because this was the first time for a lot of members who don’t have families living nearby or are already deceased. Although it (Thanksgiving) was always a big family day for me, I realized that there are so many people who don’t have traditional family gatherings.”
Among the attendees who frequents the holiday feast is Jerry Osterloh of Piqua, an 81-year-old retiree who currently serves as a board member on the Ohio SIA chapter. A Minster High School graduate, Osterloh was a machine operator and material handler for 33 years in several local manufacturing firms before retiring in 1993. His father was a farmer who tended 120 acres and Osterloh himself prides himself in driving a John Deere tractor at 13 years of age. As one of nine children — four brother and four sisters — he jokingly remarks that “all are married except me…cause I knew better.”
His interest in joining SIA came about as the result of a newspaper advertisement. “Although I didn’t know what it was about, I found it quite interesting because they (members) travel different places and it was like enjoying little vacations for me. To date I’ve only missed two conventions. If you’re single and have an agricultural background and like traveling and sightseeing you can see the world a little bit more rather than sitting at home,” He especially enjoys the chapter and convention get-togethers and dancing. “I’m a reasonably good dancer “ he laughed “Age has taken its toll and I can’t move as well as I used to. I’ve got my own style of dancing so I’ll tell a woman ‘If you can put up with me, you’re all set.’”
Osterloh was to serve as host for an Ohio chapter outing Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, to include a singles dance, the Piqua Heritage Festival and pontoon boat ride/dinner on Indian Lake. Festivities were to begin at the Palazzo in Botkins with a dance Aug. 31, followed by breakfast at McDonalds in Piqua the next morning and attendance at the Heritage Festival. By mid-afternoon the group planned to retreat to Indian Lake for a pontoon boat ride and dinner.
Ohio SIA Chapter President Darlene Foos said a tour of the Hartzler Dairy in Wooster and dance on Dec. 1 and 2 finalizes this year’s activities in Ohio.
A Galion native, Foos became affiliated with SIA upon the loss of her first husband who died of cancer. She was left to tend 185 acres of farmland and raise two children. “I knew I wanted to marry a farmer so I got involved in all the organizations I could but I didn’t find the right guy,” she explained. “Traveling to events got to be difficult although I enjoyed the companionship and opportunity to travel to national events. Chapter president the past six years Foos was fortunate to meet and marry Dan Foos nine years ago. Besides tending their farms — he owns 600 acres in Richwood — the couple vacation in Florida one month each year and enjoy their four grandchildren.
Although married, Darlene Foos enjoys the camaraderie of SIA and friendships she’s cultivated over the years. “You make friends from every state if you go to the nationals,” noted the congenial 64-year-old who is also employed as a mail carrier. “One (SIA) lady from Lexington, Ky. invited me to come stay with her when she learned I was attending a postal convention” in her city.
For more information about Singles In Agriculture, visit the Ohio Chapter website at www.singlesinagriculture.org/ohio,html or national site at www.,singlesinagriculture.org/.
Sharon Semanie writes for the
Piqua Daily Call.