The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 16, 2013

Farming is all Castles have known ... all of their lives

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — JET — There are three generations on the Castle family farm north of Jet, and some of the land has been in the family more than 100 years.

Richard and Ceceila Castle have been on the farm since 1960, when they married shortly after they graduated from Oklahoma State University. Castle’s father farmed the land, and Richard started farming when he graduated.

The family recently was named the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Family of the Year.

“I got an engineering degree, but I always knew I would be farming,” Castle said.

Currently they farm 6,000 acres of mostly wheat and pasture for cattle, with some land dedicated to alfalfa and milo.

Richard said he doesn’t think the stress is more than when he started, although drought has had its effects. They run half as many cattle as they used to, and he admits they were lucky enough to plant wheat and have a good stand. They only received about seven-tenths of an inch on this last crop before the Feb. 25 snowstorm, which brought about a foot of snow.

“It helped a lot,” he said.

His wheat this year is not tall, but it looks good, he said. Castle always has been optimistic and said he has an optimistic nature, which he got from his father.

“My father was that way, and it kinda rubbed off on me,” Castle said.

Farming is the only thing Castle wanted to do, and that is something that rubbed off on his children and theirs. His son farms, and his grandson started upon college graduation last May. Castle encouraged his grandson to farm, and he is now with them full time.

“It was the way I was. I was raised on the farm. All we’ve ever done is worked on the farm. I never had an outside job,” Castle said.

The family homeplace is just more than two miles west of Jet. It still is in the family, and friends or relatives use it occasionally. His parents lived there until they died. They purchased the place in the 1930s.

Castle has 170 cows with calves and normally about 2,000 stockers on wheat. Due to the drought, he has cut the number of stockers down to about 1,000. He said he is fortunate to have had very little problem with disease. He once purchased cattle from a number of different producers, but now buys from ranches in the eastern part of the state where the health is very good, he said.

One thing Castle said is tougher these days is the capital cost of starting a farm.

That amount is much higher than it was in 1960 when he started. The increase in the value of land makes it difficult for young farmers who are just starting.

“It would be very hard if starting out as a young farmer because of the amount of money needed to purchase land. It’s almost prohibitive unless you have a good base to start out with,” Castle said.

All land he farms is family owned. Richard and his brother once farmed together, but his brother retired and Richard rents his part. There is a small area of the farm partly owned by his brother and sister and he rents from them also. He raises mostly wheat, although he rotates some to clean up the yields. With a lot of discussion about a canola plant coming to Enid in the future Castle said it might be interesting to raise canola in the future. But that decision he will leave up to his son.

“It’s a good deal. It’s a good alternate crop, you can use it to clean up fields. A crop that grows in the winter is better than one that grows in the summer,” Castle said.

Over the long term the wheat success rate is better than milo, for example. He believes  wheat is a lot surer crop than one raised in summer. The northwest Oklahoma area has a tendency toward hot, dry winds in the summer that hurt summer crops a lot, he said.

“Wheat is normally already laid before you get into that hot, dry weather,” Castle said.

Overall, farming has been a very good life for Richard and Ceceila Castle.

“I don’t work that many hours anymore, but it used to be awful long hours every day except Sunday,” Castle said.