Caring for Marion County land is a family heritage

Few people have persevered longer or followed through on more projects than Anna Raymond.

The granddaughter of one of Hillsboro’s most famous residents, Peter Paul Loewen, builder of the sod house in Hillsboro’s Heritage Park, Raymond has been married to Thomas Raymond for more than 52 years.

Those steadfast traits have enabled Anna and Thomas Raymond to be named winners of the Continuation Conservation Award in Marion County for 2004.

Sponsored by the Marion County Conservation District, the award recognizes the Raymonds’ lifelong commitment to natural resource conservation practices.

“I have to give credit (for the award) to the people in the soil conservation office and the farmers who take care of our ground, because they’re really the ones who see it through and have the brain power,” Anna Raymond said from her home in Fort Smith, Ark. “It’s a team effort.”

Born in Buhler, Anna Loewen Raymond was raised in Buhler, Hesston and Wichita.

The daughter of Peter S. Loewen, who was born in 1891, Raymond said her father’s philosophy on caring for agricultural ground was to do “as little as possible.”

“But he did love the land,” she added. “They just didn’t have any idea back then what erosion and those sort of things did.”

Raymond said saving comes naturally to her and her family, no matter what resource is involved.

“Going back to my great-grandfather, everybody was a saver, a keeper, and took care of things,” she said. “I think that’s why his house was saved, that’s why my grandfather kept the land, that’s why my daddy kept it and that’s why I still own it. And I intend for my granddaughters to have it, so that will be six generations.

“The fact that we’re all keepers must be a genetic trait,” she added with a laugh.

Raymond said her interest in Marion County agricultural ground began in 1972.

“My father was in Salem Home and I knew I was going to inherit some of his land,” she said. “I wanted to have something more to be interested in when I came back to visit him, so I bought a farm. Eventually, I did inherit my father’s birthplace and we’ve purchased some other family land.”

Raymond, owner of rental properties in Fort Smith, flew solo managing the ground until her husband’s retirement in 1991.

“He was busy with his practice here, and I was kind of on my own,” she said. “He was supportive, of course, and he provided some funds. But since he retired, he’s been very active and on the scene.”

Also on the scene for Raymond are the local farmers who are the day-to-day managers of the ground.

“We have three separate tenants who manage our ground for us,” she said. “I have to mention Alan Boese first because he’s been with me since he was 28 years old.

“His wife, Sharon, owns the Garden Center in Hillsboro,” she added. “That family knows everything and can do everything. I just can’t say enough about them.”

Raymond’s second tenants are Mervin Deines and sons Jeff and Terry.

“The quarter they have at Lost Springs is postcard picture perfect,” she said. “It sounds weird, but I think in terms of quality workmanship, if things are attractive and appealing, they’re done well.”

Jerry Siebert and son Todd round out the trio of tenants.

“They’re just new to us for this year,” she said. “But I definitely look for conservation-minded people to be renters of our property. That’s very important to me.

“When you do conservation work and you put in terraces and all, it makes the farming harder,” she added. “You’re no longer just going in a straight line so the farmers who take care of it really put in a lot of extra effort.”

Among the practices the Raymonds have implemented over the years are terraces, waterways, food plots and planting shrubs.

In addition, marginal land was reseeded with CRP native grass, and CRP filter strips were placed parallel to existing streams.

These strips were designed to furnish food, water and shelter to wildlife with native grass plantings, food plots and a constructed pond.

“I definitely wanted to do things to attract wildlife,” Raymond said. “I think that just makes the properties more beautiful.”

Recent upgrades to the conservation plan included the addition of a waterway for the grounds’ terrace outlets.

“We also have some pasture that we’re working on, establishing some native grass, planting some trees and putting in a pond,” Raymond said. “That’s always interesting. We always have to go see that.”

Raymond said the Natural Resources and Conservation Service in Marion is one of a kind.

“I have to sing the praises of that office,” she said. “And the farm agency, too.

“They’re some of the most capable and dedicated individuals I’ve ever run across. There’s one other county I’ve dealt with in conservation offices and it’s like night and day.”

Raymond said Gary Shuler, Doug Svitak and Betty Richmond have been especially helpful.

Plans for the Raymonds’ ground include adding more filter strips and a small plot of land “that’s inconvenient to farm” which will be turned into a short grass and wildflower area.

Taking care of the land entrusted to each individual is the responsibility of each and every landowner, according to Raymond.

“If people inherit land or buy it, it’s just their job to see that the natural resources on it are protected,” Raymond said. “I get the satisfaction of doing what’s right, but I’m also not using up my equity. I’m preserving what I have.”

Even though the couple’s three children live in Maryland, Florida and Texas, Raymond is confident they’ve been advised of the importance of conservation practices.

“I’m doing my best to indoctrinate them about the benefits of resource conservation,” she said. “They love going out on the land so I hope and I think they’ll continue on with what we’ve tried to do.

“Taking care of things as best as you can so they don’t deteriorate is very important. It’s just how it’s supposed to be.”

Winning the Continuation Award is an honor, according to Raymond.

“It’s special, but I feel like we’re not deserving because we’ve had total help on both ends of it from the office and the farmers,” she said.

One thing is certain. If it’s up to Thomas and Anna Raymond, their efforts to preserve their own little piece of Marion County will continue.

“We’re preserving what we have and we can take pride in the fact that the ground looks good,” she said.

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