Anita Barnett, whose farm fields dot the landscape northeast of Humboldt, will be honored Wednesday evening with a soil and water conservation award, given annually by Allen County banks.
Anita, for all she has done to prevent soil erosion and preserve the moisture profile in her fields, is the lone recipient this year. The award will be the second with a Barnett label; she and husband, Harold, who died in 2011, similarly were recognized in 1978.
The award event will be at the Dr. John Silas Bass Community Center, 505 N. Buckeye.
An honoree for a grassland award was identified, said Gerald Grey, district conservationist, but deferred late in the process.
“Anita understands the value of soil and water conservation” and has continued through the years to install terraces and waterways, Grey pointed out.
FARMING WASN’T always in Anita’s plans, but a blind date of sorts changed all that while she was teaching school in Parsons. A friend of hers was dating “a boy and they brought along a friend” for her to meet, “A boy from Humboldt,” Harold Barnett.
Anita, 89, was born in Arkansas City and lived in Paola before attending Emporia State Teachers College for two years. Afterward, she found a teaching position at a country school, then moved to a fifth-grade classroom in Parsons.
When Harold caught her fancy, her plans changed. The two were married 61 years before Harold’s passing.
The couple made Humboldt their home in a house he and her father-in-law, Lewis Dewey Barnett, built.
“I liked teaching, but I liked (the prospects of) a family better,” she said.
Soon after their 1950 marriage, the Korean War broke out and Harold was called to duty. A strapping lad, he was tagged for a military police unit and shipped out for Japan, a stopover for troops headed to the cold climes at the middle point of the Korean peninsula, where South and North meets.
With Harold at war, Anita took a job at the Sunflower Ordnance Plant at De Soto.
With he returned, the Barnetts took up farming on 40 acres while he worked in Monarch Cement’s power plant.
Before long, ag interests occupied 120 acres, and as any successful farmer — then or now — knows by heart, farm operations are bounded not by acreage but by time and equipment. “Harold worked the 3 to 11 shift at Monarch, so he had quite a bit of daylight time to farm,” Anita recalled. Eventually land under cultivation demanded most of his time and he said “adios” to Monarch.
All along, the Barnetts, as Anita has since his death, understood the necessity of keeping topsoil in place through control of groundwater.
A GOOD COOK?
Anita shrugs off the question, as most so disposed are wont to do.
She has five children, and once the first was born in 1955 — the last in 1963 — she put three squares a day on the table for her family.
Also, “there were hay crews,” she noted, who typically enjoyed a mid-day feast.
She helped about the farm some, but five kids and daily household chores took “a little bit of my time,” she said understatedly.
An indoor task she enjoyed was keeping books for the farm operation, which she continued after Harold retired and they sold their equipment in 1992. Although they did take time out for several fishing expeditions to Alaska.
Today several farmers split duties of farming Anita’s dispersed acreage, but Anita has a keen awareness of what occurs daily. Without fail, she watches daily grain markets and is active in buying and selling grain.
“Someone has to do it,” she allowed.
The Barnetts’ love of the outdoors rubbed off on son Leonard, who for years has operated a bait shop and sells hunting and fishing equipment at the west edge of Iola. Son Lorence lives within sight of Anita’s home near Coal Creek. He opened East Side Tire, east of Humboldt on Central Street, and later sold it to Kevin Heisler, but kept a storage unit business; some units he rents, others he sells.
Earl lives in Concordia, Lora May, a real estate agent, in Humboldt and Mavis Ford at Imperial, Mo.
The fivesome have provided Anita with 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. The mention of any brings a broad smile to her face.
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