Grapes Farms of Brule, Nebraska
In 1934, Ivan Grapes and his brother, Bill Grapes, moved to this part of the country. In those first years living on a farm 15 miles northwest of Brule where the north table dropped down to the North Platte River, there were very few conservation practices being utilized. That changed with the drought of the thirties, and the need to stop the north and west winds on one of the highest elevation points in Keith County. After only one year of surviving the elements, Ivan’s brother Bill and his wife left for California. Ivan remained on the farm and began planting trees to provide shelter. He was on his own until 1938 when he married Tiny. Together, Ivan and Tiny continued to plant more trees for protection against abrasive storms. In both 1956 and 1957, Ivan and his son Ron planted several more windbreaks with bareroot trees, utilizing a Tree Conservation Program with the Halsey National Forest in Halsey, Nebraska. The trees were all hand plants, with replacement trees being taken from the pasture.
Todd R. Grapes, the son of Ron and Judy Grapes, is the third generation family member to continue in the daily farm and ranch operation. The Grapes Family has continued with the windbreaks at the farm headquarters, now located eight miles south of the original homestead. The first windbreaks started by Ivan and Tiny on the old homestead have been enhanced and extended in order to provide protection for future conservation activities. Currently, the only difference is now the trees are machine planted, and water conservation mulch is installed rather than planted by hand. However, the Twin Platte Natural Resources District annually supplies the Grapes’ with “farmer hand plants” to remind them of the “Good Old Days”.
Early on, Ivan began rotating livestock between two pastures, which has currently grown into a cross-fenced rotational grazing system. Several water tanks have also been added to better utilize all areas of the pastures. Several miles of terraces have been installed over the years for erosion control measures. The practices of no-till and minimum-till farming are being used to help conserve top soil and moisture.
Each year the Grapes Family plants trees and will continue to do so for many years to come. Todd is glad his family installed these conservation practices because they are really meant to benefit the next generation. Todd also commented that everything and everyone will benefit from respecting, conserving, protecting, and enhancing the land that creates a great place to live.