“It’s Chinese German,” 95 year-old Cleo Wessling said about his last name with a chuckle.
In his broken-in overalls, Wessling watched as his farming partners worked to fix one of their three combines that had broken earlier that day. Wessling has been farming since the age of 16; born into a family of farmers. He currently farms three different plot’s of land. Today he farmed on land near the Crawford and Simpson intersection, land owned by the Catholic Diocese.
“I’ve been working this land for at least 20 years,” Wessling said, grabbing the straps of his overalls. “Or maybe 30, I really don’t know, I am 95.”
Today was the fourth day of harvest for Wessling and his crew, made up of his daughter and family friends. Wessling says that this year’s harvest has been slow due to old machines and lack of drivers.
“All he does is farm,” Jeanne Goodman, Cleo’s daughter said of her father.
Cleo smiled, his mouth speckled with gold caps.
“When Cleo asked me to drive the trucks, I got very excited.” Tami Baxa, a family friend said. “When I was younger my family had a farm, but they sold it before I was ever old enough to drive the equipment.”
For miles down East Crawford one can see waving wheat in all directions, but with the city of Salina expanding and increasing in population, available farmland is decreasing and taking a toll on farmer’s.
“Eminent domain has hurt this family a lot,” Wesling says. “Government buys up the land for roads and things and gives us money to buy more land, but the land that’s left to buy is much harder to farm.”
This year Wessling hopes to turn 30 bushels per acre, working the Diocese’s 100 acre plot of land.