By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
MENDON, Ill.— Farming is more than a way of making a living for Dave and Linda Duncan.
"It's a great way of life," she said.
Sustaining a way of life marked by long-standing traditions of commitment to farm and community, coupled with strong faith, made the Duncans the 21st Quincy Herald-Whig Farm Family of the Year.
"Dave and Linda have been stewards of the land and feeding Americans for more than 50 years," according to the nomination submitted by Donna Jansen, the couple's daughter. "Dave and Linda have instilled in their family the importance of hard work, faith and giving back to the community."
The couple grew up with those values -- Duncan on a farm south of Ursa in the family since the 1830s and his wife on a farm south of Big Neck.
"We were raised to be giving of ourselves, help out. We had some good parents who set some good standards," Linda Duncan said.
"They kind of led by example," Duncan said.
So did the Duncans with their own family -- son Doug, daughter Debbie and her husband Brennan Reed, daughter Donna and her husband Mike Jansen and grandsons Brad, Taylor and Dillon Duncan, Tanner and Landon Reed and Andrew, Mark and Luke Jansen.
"What makes this family stand out is what they do to support the industry," Jansen wrote.
Linda Duncan believes it only makes sense to support the industry that supports the family.
"If you can't promote your product and get the word out, you can't expect other people to do it for you," she said.
Farming always has been important for the high school sweethearts who married in 1962 and built a life together on a farm between Ursa and Mendon.
"I started out farming with my dad," Duncan said. "When you grow up with it, born with it, it's not hard to keep interested."
The family raised hogs for more than 40 years and had a Christmas tree operation, launched as a 4-H project, for 20 years.
Change was a constant in the farming operation, especially in the hog industry which moved from a few animals kept in the timber to hundreds of animals housed in confinement buildings.
"It used to be when you got ready to sell pigs, you called three markets every day and went to the one that was best. You don't do that anymore," Duncan said.
They raised their own pigs for years, then switched to raising gilts for Carthage Vet Service.
"Our buildings got to where they needed work on them. We'd have to have a contract to put that much money back into them and decided not to," Duncan said. "There is life after pigs."
Today the Duncans -- Dave, Doug and Doug's son Brad -- raise corn and soybeans on more than 1,200 acres.
Hot, dry conditions on the farm in 2012 cut corn yields in half, but a timely rain saved the bean crop.
"You've always got something to face every year. There's always weather, insects or something. The perfect year doesn't come around very often," Duncan said. "You deal with whatever you have dealt to you."
The family attends Ellington Presbyterian Church where they are active members serving as elders, deacons and youth group leaders, and that strong background in faith helps the family deal with farming's challenges.
"As long as we've been farming, we don't worry about what might happen," Duncan said. "We have faith that it will work out. Sometimes it works out better than other times."
Staying on the farm takes careful stewardship along with flexibility.
"Money management has to be one of the things you need. Anymore you almost have to be an electrical engineer to farm with all the electronics," Duncan said.
"You have to be willing to adapt to change," she said. "The younger generation is teaching us now with electronics."
Making sure that younger generation, especially those off the farm, knows about farming is important to the Duncans.
"Most people get groceries out of the grocery store and don't think about it," Duncan said.
"People are so far removed from the actual farm. They don't realize where things come from, why we do what we do," Linda Duncan said.
The family knows they're fortunate to have what they do on the farm.
"We feel very blessed," Linda Duncan said. "It's been a good ride."