Ronald and Eric Christman: brothers share memories, farming

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The Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation will honor brothers Ronald and Eric Christman tomorrow (Friday) night as the organization’s “Conservation Farmers of the Year”. It’s an honor that both brothers are humbled to accept, and celebrates a lifetime of farming in and around Switzerland County.

Ronald Christman was born in Jefferson County before the family moved to Switzerland County, and Eric Christman was born here and has lived her his entire life.

“We’ve both been farming in one way or another all our lives,” Eric Christman said. “I also worked out and tried to farm too for several years.”

“I’d generally get my crops in then I’d help Harold Christman,” Ronald Christman said. “Since he farmed, too, so it all worked out good.”

Both brothers had cattle up until about 10 years ago; and Ronald Christman also raised hogs.

Although they never farmed together, the brothers have shared equipment through the years, helping each other whenever possible.

Ronald Christman has 310 acres, growing corn, soy beans, and tobacco throughout his career.

“Tobacco’s what put the kids through school,” he says with a smile. “I quit growing with the buy out, but I am gonna put me out a patch this year for chewin’.”

Eric Christman lives just north of Brushy Fork Baptist Church, on the Switzerland County side of the Switzerland-Jefferson county line. He’s got about 148 acres on the farm, which once belonged to his grandparents on his mother’s side.

“I ended up buying it when our parents passed away,” Eric Christman said. “We had to divide the farms up and see who wanted which one, so we settled everything that way and I ended up with that one.”

Eric Christman doesn’t actively farm now, leasing his land to Eric Welch for the past few years. He worked at Kentucky Utilities for over 20 years before retiring in 2002 – and is now a self-described “piddler”, keeping himself busy.

Ronald Christman built the lake behind his home using the Soil and Water Conservation District’s program; and both brothers were involved in the PIK (Payment In Kind) Program through the county agency.

Both brothers marvel that there are any farmers left today, noting the high cost of everything from land to equipment to supplies.

“I used to buy a bag of seed corn for 12 bucks, and now it’s about $300,” Ronald Christman said. “You can find some for $125, but you don’t know what you’re getting sometimes.”

“Dad bought a new 4020 back in 1966 for $6,800,” Eric Christman said. “That same tractor today’s probably $75,000, with no cab on it. Things have gotten out of hand.”

“Used to you could buy a farm and pay for the farm off of what it produced,” Ronald Christman said. “You could go buy yourself a new tractor or a new corn planter every once in a while. Those days are over.”

Ronald Christman also leases out his farmground, and all but about 20 acres is in the CRP program now.

Both men credit their families with playing a major role in their farming lives.

Ronald and his wife, Phyllis, have three children: David, Melissa, and Andrew; and Eric has two sons: Brian and Darin.