Six Inches and a Work Ethic

Paul Harvey once said, “Man – despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments – owes his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.” While I’m not disputing his statement one bit (I mean it is one of my all time favorite quotes), I also tend to think there's another pretty important factor: work ethic.

This picture is actually of my great-great grandpa Charlie and was taken in the fall of 1957. At that time he, along with his son, Ray (my great grandpa), farmed 1800 acres along with keeping cattle. Just the two of them. With this equipment.

Coming from the age of autosteer and Roundup, I honestly have a hard time grasping just how much they had to do to keep their farm successful. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of hard work by any means, but the thought of doing all the work that that farm would entail kind of blows my mind. Even if I had wanted to I wouldn’t have been able to do it between the open cab equipment (asthma and dust don’t mix) and the intense manual labor (absolutely zero upper body strength), but I am so grateful that those that came before us had the work ethic to get the job done. They paved the way for amazing advances in the industry and set up a solid foundation for American agriculture today.

When we were looking through some of these old pictures, my grandma started talking about her years as a farmer’s daughter born in the 1930’s and a grain elevator owner’s wife running the scalehouse. She said 1956 was a year she’d never forget because not only was it the year she got married, but it was the year they raised 100 bu/A corn which was something no one in the area thought possible at the time. Sixty years later we’re raising more than double that per acre. I’m thankful that each generation before us has worked to make improvements in every aspect of the ag industry.

Seed genetics.

I could keep listing things off, but I think you probably get my point.

Six inches of topsoil and rain may lay the groundwork for us, but I’d say the incredible work ethic of past generations to keep improving and building something better for us today is the cornerstone.


"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison


  • looks like the same equipment my grandfather used on there South Dakota farm until 1964

    Richard A Morris
  • I’d love it if you made a soil related t-shirt!

  • Erin, Great story and I always enjoy reading you posts.
    I live on the original farm my great, great grandfather purchased in 1860. They came from Indiana, started out in 1858 with his two brothers and their wives.
    They came here to Kansas before is was even a state, it was called the Kansas territory and it stretched out to Utah back then.
    What I think about a lot is how these people had to be so tough and rugged, crossing rivers, struggling through mud and then surviving the hot summers of Kansas.
    There’s a whole lot more I could talk about but I will quit here.
    Erin keep up the good work and maybe we’ll meet some day.
    Take care, Phil Metsker

    Phillip Metsker
  • I love this, so well said. The generations before us are the most amazing people. Much admired.

    Dannielle Nickels
  • Simple and true. The family farm didn’t survive the plethora of challenges before it to get to me. But, I pray the work ethic and appreciation for agriculture did. I’ll always treasure the time I spent on the family farm with my great grandparents, grandparents and uncle. Keep telling the story. Nebraskan’s are reading.

    Jon Watts

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