You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.
That old saying fits David Regehr to a tee. Regehr will be recognized Wednesday evening for grassland management at the annual Allen County Conservation District meeting.
Regehr, a 1971 Iola High School graduate, earned a degree in mathematics at Wichita State University, where he also completed the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. He then had a career in the U.S. Air Force, spending most of his time flying A-10 attack planes and instructing pilots. As his 20-year anniversary approached, Regehr was a lieutenant colonel and knew that if he continued in the Air Force, the likelihood of remaining in the cockpit was remote.
“I didn’t want a desk job and I didn’t want to fly commercial airliners,” Regehr said.
He and his family — wife Deborah and daughters Kristen and Amanda — decided to return to the Iola area. Regehr was raised on farms north of Iola and knew what farming was all about.
“I had to have something to do,” Regehr said, being too young in his early 40s to retire altogether.
“So, in 1997 we came back here,” he said, to the comfort of a spacious A-frame home situated on 160 acres about three miles north of Iola that the family purchased. Nowadays, he also has rented ground that he and brother Brian farm and pasture.
The Regehr daughters were in middle and high school when they arrived in Iola. Today Kristen is completing a doctorate program in economics at the University of Kansas and Amanda is in her third year at KU’s medical school in Kansas City.
REGEHR farmed the 160 acres for “a couple of years and then decided to put it back to grass. It never should have been broken out to start with,” Regehr said.
Most was planted to fescue, with 28 acres more recently sprigged to Bermuda grass.
“Bermuda is tough, but I’ve had a little trouble getting it started,” with prolonged wet and mild weather last year, Regehr said. Bermuda grows better under traditional hot, sunny Kansas skies. Even so, he noted, “we got three cuttings of hay and we started pasturing it a third at a time.”
Regher runs a cattle herd made up mainly of Angus, a mix of registered and crossbred. The grazing rate is determined by the condition and abundance of grass in individual pastures. His herd is being developed from within, which prompts him “to be picky about the heifers we keep.”
HIS OPERATION never will duplicate the one he remembers as a boy, first just across the section from today’s homestead and later a mile north of Carlyle. He has fond memories of when the family farm had pigs, chickens, dairy and beef cattle as well as crops to tend.
While his is not as diverse an operation, it’s still time consuming. Regehr has the chore of feeding cattle in nearly knee-deep mud as well as ice and snow this winter and making sure adequate water is available, helped some by a frost-free dispensing system in one field.
He also has to deal with reverses that are common to cattlemen during periods of severe weather.
Just a few days ago, some of his calves wandered onto an icy pond. Even though it was several inches thick, the ice broke. He and brother Brian extracted some calves, but three were lost. During the effort, both Regehrs were soaked head to foot.
“Boy was that water cold,” he recalled with a grimace.