Neighboring landowner learns lesson about trust the hard way

Susan Manzke
Sunny joins Bob for a cart ride on the farm.

Yesterday, I listened while Bob was explaining farming to our daughter-in-law, Tara. Rob’s wife had all kinds of questions about how farming works, what is planted, and how harvesting works.

Bob tried hard to show how different cash cropping differs from growing crops for dairy cows. When he thought he got his point across to Tara, she’d come back with another question that said she didn’t understand.

Bob continued telling her about machinery costs and how prices aren’t so great for the farmer these days. Tara listened and hopefully gleaned some information—she is not a country girl.

Later, Bob told me a short story about working with rich landowners in Illinois. These people were not farmers. Most of their land was rented to real farmers, though the husband had a small beef herd.

One year, long before I met Bob, these landowners had an abundance of hay. They asked Bob if he and his dad wanted to buy their surplus hay.

It turned out that the Manzke and Manzke partnership had plenty of hay for their cows that year, too. They did not need to buy extra.

Bob said he offered to sell the hay for these landowners so they wouldn’t have to be bothered with the transactions. The husband readily agreed.

Back in Bob's younger days, he tried to help out a neighbor with surplus hay.  The distrustful neighbor eventually learned a hard lesson.

After contacting some neighboring farms, Bob found another farmer who needed hay. He sold some of this surplus hay to this neighbor. Everyone thought it was a fair deal, everyone except the landowner’s wife.

That woman got all huffy about the sale. She figured she could do better and get a better price. Bob bowed out and wished her luck. He knew that the deal he had made had been fair to all.

The woman advertised the hay for sale at a higher price. A buyer immediately sought her out. The higher price seemed fair to him. He wanted to make sure his livestock would eat the hay first. He bought a few bales from her to bring home and test if it was palatable for his animals.

A couple days later, the buyer checked back with the woman landowner. The hay worked out great. He would take everything she had for sale at her inflated price.

The next week, a parade of trucks drove to the barn and loaded up all the hay. The first few trucks left as the rest were loaded. When the barn was bare, the rest of the trucks and trailers turned toward the house. That’s when things went wrong for the woman landowner.

No one stopped at the house to pay for the hay. The trucks just sped by the buildings, pulled out on the road, and kept going. The woman had never gotten names or addresses of the buyer.

Bob laughed when he heard that story of the hay theft. He laughed again when he retold me this story all these years later. He had put an appropriate price on that first sale. It baffled him when he heard about the buyer at the higher price. It just didn’t seem right. Hay was too abundant that year.

The landowners didn’t make their living off the farm. Work in the city allowed them to move to the country and to ‘play’ at farming.

It wasn’t the woman who told about the hay theft. From that time on she kept quiet about their farm deals. She had found out that working with honest neighbors is a lot better than going with strangers—though that could have worked out too if only she knew who she was selling to.

Bob checking out spring fields on Sunnybook Farm.

Today, I started sending out our Christmas photo cards. If you’d like one, send us a card/greeting and a loose stamp. You’ll eventually get one of our cards in the mail.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;