Ag in the Blood

The Gehrings of American Falls, Idaho

Published in the June 2013 Issue Published online: Jun 13, 2013 Tyler J. Baum
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Ag in the Blood
Ag in the Blood

Earvin "Magic" Johnson knew he wanted to be a basketball player when he was a kid.

It was in his blood.

After retiring from professional basketball in the 1990s, he was honored in 1996 as one of theĀ 50 greatest players in NBA history.

When Gary Gehring was in the second-grade, he chose creating soil as a science project. After his teacher doubted he could do it within a year, Gary gathered up dirt and sundry items, mixed them all together and proved his teacher wrong.

The soil is undeniably "in the blood" of the Gehrings of American Falls, Idaho-Gary as well as his sons, Jared and Jordan. Maybe that's the reason the operation has now lasted for over 100 years.

Several Generations

Gary's grandfather, Frederick, immigrated to America with his wife and two children in 1912, having escaped both Russia prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917 as well as Germany prior to that.

Homesteading about 320 acres of dry farm in the American Falls area, it was a "pretty tough way to make a living" according to Gary. The land was primarily "sage brush and rattlesnakes."

Frederick's son Ferdinand continued the operation. Once they drilled the first wells in about 1951, they started growing potatoes and have continued to do so every year since.

Gary jokes, "Maybe it's a bigger accomplishment to grow potatoes for 60 years than continuously farming for 100!"

Gary started farming when he was 17-focusing his attention on a small plot of sugarbeets. Even though he believed farming was in his blood, after graduating from high school in 1966 he attended Utah State and then Idaho State with the intention of becoming an attorney. That only lasted until the last six months prior to graduation, when he returned to the farm as a partner.

"The pull of agriculture was just too strong," he says.

And both of Gary's sons are continuing Gehring Ag for the same reason-agriculture is still undiluted in the blood of the fourth generation.

Jared started farming a five-acre plot for FFA between his eighth- and ninth-grade years. Throughout high school, that plot grew. While attending the University of Idaho, he'd return home and help farm every summer. After he graduated with his bachelor's degree in Finance, he returned to the farm permanently.

Jordan did the same kinds of FFA projects while growing up.

"I didn't find anything else I'd rather do along the way," he says.

Football was a temporary pull away from the farm for Jordan. Initially attending the University of Colorado on an athletic scholarship, an injury curtailed his football career. He then attended UI and finished his bachelor's degree in ag systems management.

Gehring Ag grows wheat and sugarbeets as well as potatoes for process. Jordan focuses on all aspects of growing the crops, while Jared primarily runs the operation in the office.

Gary says it really comes down to "Jordan runs the outside while Jared runs the inside." Both are "cross-trained," so they know how to do each others' jobs, but their respective niches works for the operation. As for Gary, he does a little of everything-except "move hand lines," he jokes-but Jared and Jordan are for the most part now running the operation.

Gary raves about the way his sons are running things.

"They're doing better than I ever did," he says.

Gehring Ag typically starts planting potatoes between April 10 and 15. They start harvesting shortly after Labor Day, which carries them into mid-October. Sugarbeet planting starts around the same time, and harvest begins mid-October. The wheat is planted the beginning of April and is harvested the end of July.

100 Years

In July 2012, the Gehrings celebrated 100 years in business with a party at their shop, filled with dancing and other activities.

When asked what it takes for the operation to last a full century and be successful, they all mention courage, dedication, good judgment and good business sense. They also appreciate all their employees and their families, customers, vendors, business partners, university researchers and even potato media for all the services the Gehrings rely on.

"We wouldn't have survived 100 years without their help," Jared says.

In the 21st Century, modern technologies such as smartphones-a necessity they rely heavily upon-is a giant leap from the way things were run when the business started.

Gary recalls that his father, who was the youngest of three, didn't attend high school because there was no way to get to a high school every day. Instead, they held community schools up to the eighth-grade.

Ferdinand would ride in the center of the wagon while the family hauled the wheat to nearby Quigley Siding to be shipped by rail. Oftentimes, the puff of smoke from the old steam engines would spook the horses into running back to the ranch-leaving the Gehrings to hitch a ride home.

Gary himself remembers cutting with two grain harvesters all day and only getting two bobtails full of wheat as a result. He recalls one time when he was in the fifth- or sixth-grade, they were in Idaho Falls. Gary saw a baseball mitt being sold for about $8. He really wanted it, but his father told him they couldn't afford it.

"I really think we probably couldn't afford it," he says. "[We've] come a long way since then!"

Jordan recalls his grandfather, who died in 2010 at the age of 94, says he was lucky to get out of farming when he did-before "horses" could run all night.

"When the horses got tired, you went home for the day," he says. "Now you pull your `horses' up to the fuel tank, so to speak, and they continue to run."

Gary's mother, Hannah, who just turned 90, is still alive and well. Gary and his wife, Donna, have four children. Besides the two boys on the farm, they have two daughters-one is a pharmacist in Boise, and the other lives in Los Angeles with her husband, where the two work for FOX Sports.

Jared's wife, Jill, is a part-time counselor. She and Jared have a six-year-old son named Aiden and a two-year-old girl named Ava. Jordan's wife, Kacy, runs an insurance business in American Falls. Together, they also have a two-year-old daughter, named Ashland.

The Gehrings don't spend all of their time working-they play as hard as they work, from snowmobiling and skiing in the winter to boating and fishing in the summer.

"It's a good lifestyle," Gary says. "It's just a hard way to make a living."

Even after 47 years of farming, Gary says he doesn't want to retire anytime soon.

"I don't know if I'll ever quit because, you know, by the time my last mortgage is paid off, I'll probably be in my 90s!"

Ag in the Blood
Ag in the Blood
Gehring Men
Gehring Men
Ag in the Blood
Ag in the Blood
Century Party
In July 2012, the Gehrings celebrated 100 years in business with a party at their shop, filled with dancing and other activities.
The Office
THE OFFICE. Gary and his wife, Donna, used to live in the house that's since been converted into the Gehring Ag office. Photo by Tyler J. Baum.