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Dedicating your life to serving our country is arguably the most honorable thing an American can do. Thousands of Iowans are currently serving or have served in their lifetime, and many of these men and women are proud to call themselves farmers in our great state. For Zearing farmer Floyd Ritland, serving his country and farming are two commitments he has centered his life around.
As one of 10 children, Floyd was born to farm. “During the day, we would go to school,” he said. “But as soon as we got home, we would pick corn.” Handpicking corn and tossing it in a wagon was just the beginning. By age 14, Floyd was responsible for making and selling 700 square bales to help with the family finances.
At age 18, Floyd received the call to serve his country in World War II. Growing up in rural Hardin County, farming was all Floyd had ever known, so the thought of doing anything on an entirely different continent brought much despair. “In 1944, I put my crop in, then had to have a closing-out sale,” said Floyd. “Three days later, I was inducted into the military as a private.”
Leaving his family behind to farm 80 acres with what little they had left, Floyd set out for boot camp in Louisiana. “There were 33 men out of Hardin County on the bus to the service,” said Floyd. “That didn’t leave many to farm.” After 16 weeks of basic training, he was off to the West Coast, where he would board a ship for Japan. “We were supposed to reach Hiroshima within 10 days. However, we got caught in a typhoon, and it ended up taking us 17 days,” said Floyd. “I thought we were going to die in the typhoon rather than in battle.”
Since Floyd arrived just on the heels of the final bomb, he was transitioned out of the infantry and into the 21st Ordinance, which was charged with servicing vehicles in Osaka. “We worked in an old canning factory,” said Floyd. “This was my job for nearly 15 months. I ended my service as a tech sergeant.” He was discharged in December 1947, ready to return to the farm.
Floyd picked up right where he left off. That same year, he was introduced to the benefits of cooperative membership at the nearby McCallsburg Co-op. “I joined the co-op for one dollar per stock,” remembered Floyd. “In the years that followed, I served on three different co-op boards: McCallsburg, Story City/Gilbert and Roland/Nevada.”
In November 1952, Floyd married the love of his life, Doris. They met at the skating rink. They bought their first 160 acres in 1963, then moved into the farmhouse where they raised another generation of dedicated farmers. Now 92 years old, Floyd reflects back on what it was like to farm, to serve and to finally farm again. 2018 marks the seventy-second year he’s taken out a crop.
To all our active-duty and veteran farmers, we wish to thank you for your service to our country.
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