BANCROFT — Nowadays, the 480-acre dry-land wheat farm that George C. Rigby bought back in 1910 is enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program — which pays land owners to manage their ground as wildlife habitat.
Though it's not currently in crop production, his great-grandchildren — Bret, Bart and Mark Rigby — say the farm played a central role in their upbringing. The Rigby family plans to celebrate their farming heritage and 109 years of working that land on July 24, in conjunction with their rural Southeast Idaho community's observance of Pioneer Days, celebrated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The family members all currently live in Logan, Utah, but spend every weekend and occasional weekdays on the farm during summer, tending to weeds in the CRP fields and otherwise maintaining the property.
Celia Gould, director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, and Jim Johnston, who represents District 6 on the Idaho State Historical Society's board of directors, will present the family with a plaque and certificate, commemorating their property as a Century Farm.
Patricia Hoffman, management assistant with the historical society, said more than 400 farms have been named Century Farms since the program started in 1990. The program, which is a partnership between ISDA and the historical society, requires farms to have at least 40 original acres that are still maintained as income-generating farm land by a single family for a full century.
"I think it's mostly recognizing Idaho farm and ranch families that have continually stayed in Idaho and farmed land for over 100 years, and that is a feat in itself, especially today, the way farms are moving more into corporations," Hoffman said.
George C. Rigby moved to Bancroft from Northern Utah and broke the farm ground with horses.
Bret Rigby, who is a commercial real estate agent, explained his grandfather, Moses Rigby, and his grandfather's two brothers continued farming the ground. His uncle, Don Rigby, farmed the land for a period before Bret Rigby's father, Max Rigby, eventually took it over, commuting between Bancroft and his home in Logan.
"I went to school in Logan. In the summer, we moved up to the farm and spent all week at the farm doing whatever was required of us," Bret Rigby said. "We would go up there for weekends before school let out."
Bret Rigby recalls driving a tractor, pulling rye grass from grain fields, moving irrigation pipe and performing other chores associated with farm life.
"It's a great way of life to be outside," Bret Rigby said. "It's hard work, but there's nothing more rewarding than watching the crops grow and then harvesting."
Bret Rigby believes the Century Farm designation will be especially meaningful to his 87-year-old mother, Bonnie, who helped her late husband make farm-related decisions and was integrally involved in farm operations.
"She was always very active on the farm. She drove the trucks, things like that, and obviously she was the one who took care of us and fed us to keep us going," Bret Rigby recalled.
The family has added about 4,000 acres to their great-grandfather's original farm — about half were irrigated. Those acres are all in CRP, as well. The Rigby brothers all have children whom they hope will continue the farming legacy.
"We just thought (a Century Farm designation) would be a great honor to the family," he said. "Our father farmed it, our grandfather farmed it and our great-grandfather farmed it."