The two-hour drive home didn't stop Neal Galle from farming while studying Feed Science and Management at Kansas State University in the 1970s. He took the opportunity on weekends to operate his father's 1952 International W6 tractor and help plant wheat on the farm near Moundridge that's been in the family since 1906. The summer after junior year, 200 nearby acres came up for rent. Along with his father's land, this gave Neal his chance to get started. "All of a sudden, 300 acres came up to farm," he says. "Basically, there was nothing to come back to until then."
At K-State, Neal met his wife, Clare, a member of the swimming team. After they married in 1976, Clare transferred to McPherson College and finished her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, before earning her Master's Degree from K-State in Special Education with an emphasis in Gifted. For 37 years, Clare has taught social studies, special education, and gifted students. She currently works for the Reno County Education Cooperative in Hutchinson and serves in Haven, South Hutchinson, and Yoder. "I love working with kids and watching them learn and grow," she says. "It's the thrill of getting them excited about learning, and keeping that excitement high."
Neal and Clare started with wheat and grain sorghum, but have diversified since. The initial 300 acres have grown to over 1,000. The Galles added soybeans in the 1980s, followed by alfalfa in the 1990s, and corn in the early 2000s.
McPherson County is primarily wheat country. The Galles have contributed to fellow wheat farmers by devoting two acres to a McPherson County Extension Wheat Plot since 1981.
Here, they test new varieties before they are released with different kinds of starter fertilizer, fungicides, and seed treatments. The plot usually draws over 70 local farmers for an annual county plot tour. "We try to do what local farmers are doing, so they're seeing real yields," Neal says. "It doesn't do me any good if I tweak it. Then it's not realistic to how I'm going to farm."
Growing the next generation
After starting with Duroc and Yorkshire pigs, they've diversified their livestock to include Hampshire sheep and Angus cattle, both which started with their children's 4H projects. The Galles have always shown the same animals they would choose for production. This means balancing low-maintenance and longevity with feed efficiency and meat production. "We've developed good productive sheep, pigs, and cows that take care of themselves," Neal says.
All three of their children have brought home purple and blue ribbons from the McPherson County Fair and Kansas Junior Livestock Show. The money from selling these animals went toward their college education. "Every dime would enter their savings account. When they wrote thank you letters to the buyers, they always wrote 'this will help offset my college expenses,'" Clare says. "Showing livestock got our kids through college."
All three are graduates of engineering school, and got their work ethic on the farm. Their oldest, Beth earned her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. She and her husband Michael Hess, live in Battle Ground, Indiana. Beth is a research engineer for Cook Medical and Michael is senior engineer at Caterpillar.
Their older son, Craig, earned a Bachelors' degree in Construction Science and Management from K-State. Craig and his wife, Alaine, their daughter, Anna, and son, Cole, live in Goddard, where Craig works as project manager for Utility Contractors, Inc. Alaine is a medical technologist at Via Christi in Wichita.
Their youngest, Paul, earned Bachelors' degrees in Business Operations Management and Civil Engineering at K-State and is a product engineer for Great Plains Manufacturing in Salina. He lives in Lindsborg with his wife, Amy, and son, Isaac. Amy is a registered nurse at Kaye Pogue Hospice in Salina.
Craig and Paul's families continue to help on the farm, especially during wheat harvest. "As the boys have grown older, they've become indispensable," Clare says. "You couldn't hire any better help than our sons."