Farmer returns to his roots, wins award
Elmer Karczewski went into the U.S. Air Force to get away from farming. After 23 years in the military, guess what career Karczewski selected? Farming.
Now, 35 years later, the rural Easton resident is being honored as a recipient of the Leavenworth County Conservation District's soil conservation award.
Leon Stites, an agricultural agent with K-State Extension-Leavenworth County, said Karczewski was being honored for terraces he constructed on the farm. The terraces were put in to help stop erosion on hilly areas on the farm, Stites said.
Where once stood 120 acres of row crops, including corn, soybeans and alfalfa, Karczewski now farms 77 acres; the remainder is planted in grass.
Karczewski's daughter Cheryl said her father grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and decided to join the military and leave agriculture behind.
He wound up in Easton after being sent to school at Fort Leavenworth.
"It's a funny story," his daughter said. "They didn't have any housing on post large enough for our family, so we ended up renting out in the country. It was us kids' first experience living in a rural area. Dad wound up buying some cows, pigs, ducks and turkeys. We got a real kick out of it."
Eventually, Karczewski received orders to be transferred to an air base in Colorado but decided to retire from active duty. He wound up buying a farm near the family's rental quarters.
In the years since then, Karczewski has bought a second farm.
His wife, Shirley, died in 1996; his eight children - Jerry, Sandy, Cheryl, Gloria, Daryl, Jamie, Marilou and Dan - have scattered from the area.
And the days of raising animals have since passed; Karczewski sold off the last of his feeder cattle in November.
But he continues in the vocation he once shunned.
It's unlikely Karczewski will make it to Saturday's Conservation District banquet to pick up his award. Knee replacement surgery was keeping him in the hospital longer than anticipated.