#AgLife: Jarvis Farms a high flying venture

    There may be life off the ranch, but any Fremont County farmer or rancher will tell you – The #aglife is “the good life!” #Aglife is a County 10 series, brought to you by Wyoming Community Bank, that pulls the curtain back on farm and ranch life in Fremont County.

    There is a high-flying connection between the generations in the Jarvis family. Some were successful, some not quite as spectacular.

    Myron Jarvis had just mustered out of the US Navy after World War II. He spent the war years stationed in San Francisco, where he was a chauffeur for an admiral.

    When he returned to Wyoming, he took a job as a mechanic at the Nash Garage in Casper.

    Snow on the mountains as the corn is combined – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    Myron took advantage of the GI Bill, learning to fly from flight instructor Guy Worley at the Shoshoni Airport.

    “He was dating Mom,” his eldest son Greg said. “My grandpa Nick Comes was the roundhouse foreman at Bonneville. Mom (Betty) had gone to business school in Denver, she graduated and went to work for Marathon Oil in Casper. That’s where Dad met her and started dating her. When she was home, Dad was flying an old J-3, a 65-horsepower plane. He’d take that thing up above Bonneville, put her in a tailspin, then pull her out because he knew she was looking.”

    High-flying romance runs in the Jarvis men.

    A green marriage proposal – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    Jump ahead two generations to 2016, and Myron’s grandson Daniel, Greg’s youngest son, proposed to his future wife Sarah Thompson using a drone to take a photo of an engagement message he wrote in one of his hayfields with a GPS-controlled swather.

    In between, oldest son Ty, learned to fly and spent 12 years as a bush pilot in Alaska.

    While life in the sky was fun for Myron and Daniel and an occupation for Ty, it’s the more mundane aspects of agriculture that the Jarvis family is most famous for.

    In 1938, Myron’s father, Dewey (D.D.) Durwood, came to Wyoming and homesteaded in Missouri Valley.

    A good stand of alfalfa falling behind the swather – h/t Sarah Jarvis

    “It was on the lower end of Missouri Valley, Bob Pingetzer had it, and Mickey and Becky Fike owned it,” Greg said. “It was a 160-acre homestead they broke out of the sagebrush. They used an anchor chain off a ship dragged between two D-8 cats to clear the sagebrush.

    Myron and Betty had four children: Greg, Mike, Jane, and Peggy.

    The couple was married in December 1949 and Greg arrived a year later.

    “When I was born, grandma and grandpa had built the new house. We lived in the basement until I was 8 or 9 months old. Dad built the tenant house next to it, that’s where we lived until I was four, then Dad leased a place up in Missouri Valley for 35 to 37 years, and I ended up buying it,” Greg said.

    Big baling last summer – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    Myron leased the farm in Missouri Valley in 1954 and moved there to begin farming on his own. In 1956, he purchased a place in the lower Missouri Valley.

    Myron moved a barracks from the Heart Mountain Internment Camp for the family’s first home, then proceeded to build a new home on the property.

    The original farm was 200 irrigated acres.

    “The Bureau of Reclamation started selling off sagebrush hills, 160 acres per section,” Greg said. “Dad went through Grandma and Aunt Charity and bought a full section 640 acres. He used sagebrush for pasture, not much grass because of not enough rain.”

    Stacking hay for shipment – h/t Sarah Jarvis

    In 1974, Mike bought his own place, and in 1976, Greg did as well.

    Antics are a generational trend with the Jarvis boys. Mike and Greg making it to adulthood was a combination of luck and maybe a little divine intervention.

    Their father was a pilot and their sons were bush and drone pilots, in between the brothers tried a little unconventional flying on their own.

    “Remember the story of Icarus and how his wings melted when he got close to the sun? We liked that story. We thought we could take some 6-foot sheets of corrugated tin, and fly off the stack,” Greg said. “I punched holes between them and the tied baling wire so they’d hinge in the middle. I punched holes around Mike’s arm and tied them with twine so he could flap his wings.”

    With the contraption built, they waited for a good wind to make a test flight.

    “We figured we had to have a pretty good wind to keep us up. We were going to fly off a 12 bale high stack. We’d get home from school and check for the wind. One day the wind was just right,” Greg said. “We made a box, and broke a punch of straw, about three feet deep so it would be a soft landing if it didn’t work. Mike leaned into the wind and it started to catch him. He wasn’t jumping, so I gave him a little shove. He didn’t fly at all, he flew flat on his face. He couldn’t move his hands to stop himself. He was lying there moaning and groaning. I was laughing. I took my pocket knife and cut him out.”

    Three generations of Jarvis farmers, Daniel, Greg and Jasper – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    That wasn’t the only failed flight test by the inventive brothers.

    “One day, Dad got the cows from Charity Fike, Aunt “Cherry,” Greg said. “Dad ran the cows for winter pasture, near Faron Eisemann’s place. We went out one morning to fire the pump up, two or three miles after the big turn on Bass Lake Road. A weather balloon had landed, and the light was still blinking on it. We got the parachute and started looking at it and thought, wow a parachute.”

    An idea flickered in their heads.

    Father and son in the bean field – h/t Sarah Jarvis

    “We got the bright idea of getting on top of Dad’s truck shed, about 18 or 20 feet. Mike was going to run off the end with the chute,” Greg said. “We didn’t check the parachute, the cord was 20 feet long. The parachute was just starting to open when he hit the ground.”

    With their attempts at flight, skiing the irrigation canals behind a pickup truck seemed mild.

    One day, the brothers found four cases of dynamite used to blast ditches.

    “We don’t know how many rocks we blew off the hills into the causeway, some of them were pretty good sized, one was about 10 feet in diameter,” Greg said. “That day we only had two sticks of dynamite, but we had 10 gallons of ammonium nitrate with diesel fuel in it. It made a good blast.”

    Spring chickens with receding snow – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    Anyone growing up in Fremont County in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s probably remembers Myron Jarvis flying overhead in his orange airplane.

    With most of their youthful exuberance in check, Mike and Greg began farming their own sections of land.

    Greg’s farm was 115 irrigated acres; Mike’s was harder to determine.

    “His was weird he had Boysen Lake in it. Any place the high water mark hit, the Bureau of Rec would claim the entire 40 acres,” Greg said.

    A good stand of corn – h/t Sarah Jarvis

    Mike’s story, along with his sons David, Mac, and Beau will follow in another #aglife story.

    Greg had three children, David, Tuesday, and Daniel.

    He had a traditional corn, alfalfa, and pinto beans operation until he decided to plant two acres of raspberries in 1996.

    “We used migrant labor for picking. We raised pinto beans. The family we hired to hoe beans for us, we hired to work the raspberries. They started working for us in 1997 or 98,” Greg said.

    Raspberries are a labor-intensive crop with high overhead but huge yields when conditions are right.

    Pumpkin harvesting, Jasper Jarvis style – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    “We harvested a little bit in 1999, about 20 flats, on the original two acres in front of the house. 2000 they grew quite a bit, with a few more berries. I tried to get high school or college kids to help. The ones that wanted to work were in every sport, they didn’t have time to come and pick. It didn’t work out very well,” Greg said. “In 2001 we planted Roundup-ready sugar beets, we didn’t need labor to hoe beets anymore. In the fall of 2001, we hired a migrant family to pick raspberries. It was hard because they needed a place to stay, I ended up buying a couple of trailers from Dave and Dennis Pence.”

    The raspberry era ended 20 years after it began.

    “We closed the doors in October of 2017. It got to the point where we couldn’t get help anymore. The berries were getting tired and needed replaced. When I planted the original ones in 1999 it cost $6000 per acre, now it would be $15 to 20,000. It takes three or four years to get into production. When they first started they had a lot of relatives coming up to do the beets and beans, I had 16 pickers. Our biggest day we picked 930 pounds. They’d average about 600 to 650 pounds a day. In full production, the two acres would produce 32 to 33,000 pounds in a season. All fall bearing raspberries.”

    Sarah and Daniel Jarvis – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    The original pickers began to age, and the younger ones began to have boyfriends and get married. The family had nine girls. They found permanent jobs and stopped coming.

    “During the glory days in 2005-2009, we had 14 to 16 pickers and six ladies in the packing barn sorting and packaging. At that time, it was neighbor ladies, looking for a part-time job. When they got too old to do it anymore, we started working on the younger generation, and oh my golly. We couldn’t get kids to help, then the raspberries got tired and started to fade,” Greg said.

    The three Jarvis children grew up and started their lives. Tuesday graduated in 1996, married Doug Wookey and they have four children, Isaiah, Roland, Titus, and Emma. She graduated from the University of Wyoming last spring after student teaching.

    Ty graduated in 1999, married Esther Brow, and the couple have three children, Tanna, Eli, and Cora.

    Daniel and Jasper Jarvis throwing tubes – h/t Sarah Jarvis

    The youngest, Daniel, graduated in 2004 and went into farming with Greg until he purchased his own farm. Daniel earned an AA in Business Administration from CWC and then a BA in Business Administration with a certificate in entrepreneurship from the University of Northern Colorado.

    “I didn’t take any ag classes. I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Daniel said. “I always liked the farm growing up. Owning a business was something I wanted to do.”

    He originally thought about going into banking, but the Savings and Loan catastrophe curtailed that career.

    Careful monitoring of irrigation water is part of farming – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    “In 2008, it was tough trying to find a job in banking. I thought about being a loan officer. It was slim pickings,” Daniel said. “I applied all winter. Spring rolled around in 2009, and the Charles Herbst place, owned by Sam Roggow was available.

    In 2009, he leased from Sam.

    “He needed someone to farm it, and since it was close to my dad’s place that would work out great,” Daniel said. “I farmed that place until 2011 in alfalfa and pintos.”

    “Bill and Alice Marlatt were selling their homestead piece with their house. I talked to them personally,” Daniel said. “At the time, George and Bob Pingetzer were farming it. I had to make a deal with Pingetzer’s for the next couple of years. They let me work their lease.”

    Setting tubes in the early morning – h/t Sarah Jarvis

    He got a loan from the Farm Service Agency. In 2013, he owned his own farm.

    He works 100 irrigated acres and has 38 unirrigated.

    “I still worked with my dad. Affording land and equipment isn’t feasible. I work with my dad on his place. We do an exchange of equipment. He owns most of the equipment. I farm his place and my place,” Daniel said.

    He helped with the raspberries as well.

    In 2016, he married the girl literally down the road, Sarah.

    Jasper, Sarah and Jade Jarvis – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    His proposal by drone was unique and is now part of the lore of Fremont County.

    “I occasionally use a drone to check waste water when I’m doing row crops and beans. I used it leisurely,” Daniel said. “We use GPS. I cut, plow, cultivate, and bale with it. The only thing we don’t do is combine. It frees you up a little so you can watch them. Some days it follows pretty good, other days you have to drive a lot.”

    Married life on the farm – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    Sarah is a K-6 STEAM teacher at Shoshoni.

    They have two children, a born farmer and equipment operator in their three-year-old son Jasper, and their daughter Jade, who is almost nine months old.

    Late nights planting – h/t Sarah Jarvis

    “Agriculture is the draw. It’s the lifestyle. I enjoy watching the fruits of our labor. What you put into it is what you get out of it.  The lifestyle is the biggest draw, especially raising a family. Kids on a farm out in the country, playing with no worries in the world,” Daniel said. “It would be nice to find a few more acres, but finding something that’s nearby and feasible is a challenge. With my dad getting a little older at the moment, with the two of us and the number of acres we have, it’s all we can handle.”

    The joys of farm life – h/t Daniel Jarvis

    High flying into the future, whether from a runway or the top of a shed. The Jarvis family is one of the most established in all of Fremont County.

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