5-generation farm family to be honored
By Joseph Slacian
For more than 100 years, the Bechtold family has been farming land near North Manchester.
“The farm was started in 1918 by my great-grandfather, Ray,” said Bret Bechtold, the fourth generation of the family to be involved with the venture. “His son Duane took over when he was 19 after Ray passed away at a young age.
“My dad, Bob, joined him in 1960. I was fortunate enough to get to work with both of them after graduating high school for several years.”
Today, Bret Bechtold and his wife, Michelle, are joined by their two sons, Austin and Trent, who make the fifth generation to farm the homestead.
For the efforts and longevity in the agriculture community, the Bechtold family was named the 2022 Wabash County Farm Family of the Year. The family will be honored March 8 during Grow Wabash County’s annual Salute to Agriculture Dinner.
The dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Heartland REMC Community Room.
“We mainly raise corn and soybeans, a little wheat and a little alfalfa,” Bret said. “We also raise some cattle and raise some sheep.”
He said he always dreamed of having his sons join the operation, and is glad that they decided to do so.
“I’m glad we can hopefully keep sustaining it and keep it going,” Bret said.  “It’s an honor to get to work with everybody. Your grandpa, your dad and now your sons.
“As far as bringing the next generation in, everybody grew up working on the farm, and kind of grew into their roles, especially as the older generation slowed down.”
Austin said he always wanted to work on the farm.
“There was never any question that this is where I wanted to end up some day,” he said. “Growing up, you got to work with grandpa and great-grandpa quite a bit. You got to sit in the shop, ride a combine or a tractor.”
Trent said when he was younger, he enjoyed watching his father and grandfather work together on the farm.
Each one of the Bechtolds have their specific duties.
“Austin enjoys the crops and the precision side of things,” Bret said. “Trent’s always enjoyed the livestock more. We all work together, depending on what needs done that day.”
Trent said his interest in taking care of the animals grew from his involvement with 4-H and FFA while growing up.
As far as the final say in case of disagreements, Bret said with a laugh, “It depends on who you ask, I suppose.”
On a serious note, he continued, “(The boys) will tell you I’ll try to get them to agree, but I’ll probably have the final say.”
Austin agreed.
“He makes the final decision,” he said. “If we’re trying to settle what we’re doing today – selling grain, crop inputs, buying equipment – we usually try to talk together and reach a decision together.”
As far as transitioning to the next generation, Bret said he is trying to give the boys more responsibilities and allow them to make more decisions.
The family tries to use conservation methods whenever possible.
“We use terraces, we use waterways where we think we need them to help prevent soil erosion,” Austin said. “We have some farms that are strictly no-till anymore. At a couple of those, we use cover crops to help increase soil health. That’s something we’re looking at getting on a few more farms in the future.
“We’re pretty much minimal till. We’re on more vertical till tools instead of going toward the field cultivators like we use to.”
The family also tries to be good neighbors.
“We’re fortunate to have good neighbors that we can work together with,” Bret said. “The Pedens – Jim and Jake – do a lot of trucking, and really help out in the fall keeping our grain moving. 
“The Huffords, we work with on the alfalfa side. They help a lot in the fall, whether it’s sewing wheat, driving truck or running the grain truck. Joe Carroll, we work with also. We plant and haul his corn and soybeans.” 
All agreed that being named Farm Family of the Year was a great honor.
“I think it’s really neat and quite an honor,” Bret said. 
Austin added, “I’m sure grandpa and great-grandpa would agree.”
Posted on 2023 Mar 07