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Master Farmer Hilding Allen

Allen: ‘You darn need to be a millionaire to get started’

Editor’s note: The following story is another in the series on Bureau County’s Master Farmers.

PRINCETON — When discussing achievements in his farming career, Hilding Allen touches on family.

Watching his son and son-in-law having carried on, and even expended the family farm operation, gives a sense a pride to him that can’t be overlooked when referring to the successes.

The Allen farm has been in continuous corn production for more than 50 years, and it had the second hog confinement operation in Bureau County.

Allen was born and raised on the farm, and after high school, he decided to head off to college, uncertain of what he would study.

Throughout time, however, Allen found himself back at the farm, following in the footsteps of his father, who was settling into retirement.

“At the time, it was the easiest thing to do, and now looking back it was the right thing to do,” he said. “Things would have been different if it hadn’t been for the family farm.”

Allen admits, if the option of farming wouldn’t have been at his fingertips, he would have never ended up a farmer.

Allen gradually took over the farm in 1948, and in 1986 he was awarded the Prairie Farmer Master Farmer title.

Comparing the times of what farming was like when he first started out to what it’s like today, Allen chuckles at the thought of all the new advancements and farming methods now available for the farmer.

“There’s more things coming out everyday than there used to be in a year,” he said. “Maybe I’m glad I’m not farming today because equipment and methods are so much different than years ago. I’m a better observer now than I would be if I had to be doing it.”

Allen can still remember when a two-row corn picker was big deal.

“Now they’ve got the 8- and 12-row equipment and all different sorts of seed varieties. It’s a lot to keep up with,” he said.

When thinking about the future of farming, Allen admits he doesn’t worry too much about the future.

“I imagine the farms will continue to get bigger yet ... 160-acres used to be a great crop for one family, and now it’s just a start, really,” he said. “I don’t know where the end will be, but I imagine it will come. We can only expand so much.”

And as for the family farm, Allen is hopeful it will not become a thing of the past.

“I think there will always be a family individual or several people of the family that will continue to head an operation. There’s no way to be sure about that, but even big operations, most anyway, have a family as a core, and I think it will stay that way,” he said.

Looking at young farmers, Allen is a firm believer that those who are seeking a career in farming must have either an agricultural or financial background to be successful.

“You just can’t say, ‘I want to be a farmer,’” he explained. “It’s different than it used to be. You darn need to be a millionaire to get started. Just the cost of those combines today — we would have retired if we had that much money back in the day.”

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