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Published July 24, 2010, 12:00 AM

Keeping the family farm

BELFIELD — Martha Namyniuk has spent much of her 78 years working on a farm. After her husband’s passing she was left with a mortgaged farm and five children. It is then she fought and fought for 10 years to keep the family farm just that — in the family.

By: By KB Carter, The Dickinson Press

BELFIELD — Martha Namyniuk has spent much of her 78 years working on a farm. After her husband’s passing she was left with a mortgaged farm and five children. It is then she fought and fought for 10 years to keep the family farm just that — in the family.

The Belfield woman is honored to be one of six nominees for the Farm and Ranch Guide Country Woman of the Year award. This is her second year nominated and the winner will be announced at a luncheon at the Grand International Inn in Minot on Friday.

“I want to give her a crown of jewels,” said Dorothy Zilkowski, childhood friend, “because when her husband died she was left with an unpaid farm and five children to care for.

“She worked so hard all by herself and now the farm is paid for.”

Namyniuk said she learned by doing. “I did every aspect of farming from seeding to cultivating to planting to comparing wheat prices to marketing grains and harvesting crops. Some nights I would work until 2 to 3 in the morning.”

She grew up on her family farm and then helped her husband, Elko. It was shortly after Elko died in the mid 80s that the Farmers Home Administration, began pushing for her to foreclose. They urged her to move into town and get a job doing something else.

The farm was, and is, important, she said, adding she and Elko always planned on leaving it to their children.

“During that time the FHA was coming down hard on a lot of farms and pushing foreclosure,” she said. “Many people didn’t want to fight the government and simply let the FHA have its way.”

It was with the help of Sarah Vogel, North Dakota agricultural commissioner at the time, which she fought for 10 years to keep her farm.

There were a lot of meetings and a lot of paperwork, Namyniuk said, adding she never would have been able to be the self-taught businesswoman that she is without the help of the women at the Billings County Farm Service Agency. “Those ladies were just angels to me. I guess you could say that was my education because I had to learn everything from scratch.”

Namyniuk no longer farms but leases it and has cows on shares. She still handles quite a bit of paperwork.

She is also on the board for the Ukrainian Cultural Institute.

The award started in 1994 by a sales manager and general manager of the magazine that felt country women weren’t getting the recognition they deserved, said Mark Conlon, Farm and Ranch Guide editor.

“Anyone can nominate a country woman,” he said. “There aren’t many stipulations except that they have to live on a farm or ranch and have to be from the reading area of the magazine.”

During any given year there can be between 25-60 nominees. A panel of judges will rank them and the top six are invited to the awards luncheon, Conlon said.

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