Klenda family returns for wheat harvest


Staff writer

Harvest time at the Martin Klenda farm always has been a family affair. This year is no exception but even more poignant after the loss of Martin's wife, Magdalen, in February, after almost 67 years of marriage.

Children and grandchildren come from as far as Maine, Virginia, and Arizona to bring in the wheat.

Matthew Ragole, daughter Susan's son, has been participating every summer since he was in the fifth grade. His mother is a real estate agent who sells million-dollar houses in the Washington, D.C. area.

Matt chose to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder so he could be closer to his grandparents. His paternal grandmother, Phyllis Ragole, lives in Marion.

"During my four years of college, I traveled more than 110,000 miles visiting my grandparents," he said.

He graduated this spring and is taking a position as an analyst for an investment firm in Minneapolis, Minn.

"This might be the last time I get to come here for wheat harvest," he said sadly, noting in the "real world" he will be tied down to a job with limited time away.

Son Dave's wife, Brenda, of Maine, is participating in this year's harvest for the first time. Dave remained at home to take care of the family business. They have a seafood business in which they buy young lobsters, feed them in salt-water tanks, and sell them cooked to restaurants and other wholesalers and retailers. They also sell live lobsters and other seafood.

Dave's sons, Jeremiah, Julian, and Luke, 6, also are visiting. They come every year. Jeremiah runs a combine and drives a semi-truck, Julian drives a truck, and Luke has the task of gathering the eggs every day.

Brenda said she and Dave would like to live in Kansas someday.

Brenda and Martin's daughters, Sharon Hatfield of Tucson, Ariz., and Susan Ragole of Virginia, help prepare meals, do laundry, and move trucks. Sharon has been helping with harvest approximately 13 years.

Martin's son Mark always has participated in the harvest. He runs a combine. He now lives in Kansas City and makes frequent visits to the farm.

Son Joe is a regular harvest guest and operates one of three combines. He is a technician for Vulcan Chemicals in Wichita.

"We usually have two of three machines in operating condition," Martin said wryly. He has a 7720 and 6620 John Deere and an R50 Gleaner.

Son John is an attorney at McPherson. He helps with harvest in the evening. His son Kasey, a high school senior, is participating as a truck driver.

Martin has farmed all of his life. He has lived almost 91 years in the same house on the same farmstead.

With the help of family members, the gentle man has been able to keep the farm going.

He maintained a large cattle-feeding operation until the late 1970s. When interest rates soared, he decided to get out of the business.

Until a few years ago, Martin did the farming himself. He switched from producing diversified crops to only wheat. Now, he hires someone to till the ground, and every fall, son Dave comes from Maine to sow the wheat.

Martin is proud of each of his nine sons and three daughters. They pursued a variety of careers including physician, teacher, nurse, farmer, professional baseball player, attorney, technician, and financial adviser.

He said they were good workers while growing up.

"They used to help me feed cattle," he said. "In high school, they got up at five to milk cows and do chores. Later, they helped all they could, and they still do."

He now has 29 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, and one on the way.

Even as Martin is proud of his family, the family is proud of him and his farm.

"We hope to keep it going one way or another," Suzy said.