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85 Years Young, Still Farming

by Stan Maddux

Published: Friday, July 6, 2018

At 85, Ken Sebasty still pulls a 40 foot cultivator on a four-wheel drive tractor and tends to other needs on the 6,000 acres he owns in Indiana and Michigan.

Sebasty tried retiring once but after two weeks had enough.

"If I die on the farm so I die on the farm. I'm not going to die from retiring,'' Sebasty said.

He continues to put in long days but every now then allows himself to rest a bit with his son, Ken, Jr., now in charge of the operation.

Sebasty knows he can't go on forever but energized by a pace-maker he had put in about five years ago feels another 10 years is not out of the question.

"I expect to do that,'' said Sebasty.

Sebasty, who lives just outside New Carlisle, grew up on a 1,200 acre farm in nearby Hudson Lake where he milked his first cow at age 6.

His father kept about 20 dairy cows he and his four brothers were responsible for milking by hand every day. Corn, oats and later soybeans were also raised there along with some hay.

One day, Sebasty said he was working in one of the fields when he happened to see across the street "a pretty nice looking girl in the yard.''

Her name was Elaine. He wanted to go back and work so he could get to know her.

" I told my dad you got to take be back over there,'' Sebasty said.

They've been married for close to 60 years.

Sebasty said he was on leave from the Army when he came across the first plot of farm ground he would buy next to the Studebaker automobile plant in South Bend during the late 1950's.

The parcel he bought with a loan measured one square mile which was especially large in those days. Sebasty finished negotiating the sale while stationed in Germany just before pro-spective buyers with much deeper pockets from New York could get it.

Gradually, he kept acquiring more land. Eventually his operation became too large for just him and a few workers to handle themselves, so he started leasing and renting some of the ground to other farmers for growing crops.

More good fortune for Sebasty came when the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians bought 200 of his acres close to North Liberty for $650,000, he said.

Twenty years later, his ship really came in. Sebasty was paid $15 million for 165 acres where the St. Jo-seph Energy Center on Walnut Road just east of New Carlisle recently opened.

He's been through the usual bad times but the timing of the windfall couldn't have been better, with the farm economy struggling from an extended period of low grain prices.

Despite all of his hard work and skills, Sebasty was quick to give luck some of the credit. He said his luckiest moment came after he ran accidently over his son, just five or six at the time. After jumping off the tractor, Sebasty said he witnessed a miracle when finding the boy alive inside the oversized treads of one of his tires. The protection from the treads, being so deep, kept him from being crushed.

Six years ago, his son gave Sebasty identical twin grandsons.

"They're just the greatest thing you could ever have happen is to have twins in your family,'' he said.

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