Agriculture is a big part of Box Elder County. We rank first in Utah in the number of beef cattle, and have an inventory of 10,000 dairy cows and 35,600 sheep. We are number one in the state in grain production and near the top in barley, silage and alfalfa. Such production has been going on for over a century, with farms and ranches being passed down from generation to generation. In this series, the Leader will be spotlighting some of those 100-year-old family farms – their struggles and their successes.
Gail Godfrey loves farming. After all, it’s been part of his life since he was old enough to sit on a tractor seat, and part of his heritage for generations before that.
But this Fielding farmer is “darned concerned” about where the agricultural industry is going, not just in Box Elder County, but across the nation. He said he looks back on the ancestors who first started raising crops on the acreage he now works and wonders what they must think about the results of their past sacrifices.
Those ancestors included Godfrey’s great great grandfather, John W. Hess, Sr., who once passed through the Fielding area on his way to the mission field in Wyoming and remarked to his companion that it “looked like really good ground.”
But his roots were in Farmington, so that’s where he returned following his mission. He married and began to raise a family. Seven wives and 63 children later he was able to purchase some of that good farm ground he had passed through from the Corinne Mill, Canal and Stock Company for $2,833. He divided the 611.59 acres “out on the flat” between five of his sons.
His namesake, John W. Hess, Jr., moved to his piece of property with his wife and growing family just after 1888. Then it was dry farm ground, perfect for raising alfalfa and grain. Along with those crops, he raised a handful of children. One son, Franklin “Wallace” Hess, later took over the farming duties from his father, holding on to 237 acres. While he wasn’t the only son, “he was the one who wanted to stay and farm the ground,” Gail said. “He loved to farm.”