Photo by Frank Prager
Jo Bierbaum still actively participates in her family’s farming operation at the age of 82. She was born and raised on the farmland a half mile from where she still lives outside of Fosterburg.
Farm work slows down a bit in the winter for Jo Bierbaum but never completely stops.
With 44 head of cattle to tend on her farm outside of Fosterburg, she feeds and waters them twice a day in addition to giving them hay and tending to their bedding all year long.
Born and raised on the farmland a half mile from where she still lives outside of Fosterburg, Bierbaum recalls attending the nearby one-room Wertz School as a child. She graduated from Alton High School in 1950 and married in the fall of that year. She and her husband, Vernon, farmed together until his passing in 2003. He also worked at Olin Corp. for 39 1/2 years.
They raised three children, Rosie, Dennis and Dan. She has eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
“And two more on the way,” she said, smiling.
Bierbaum has been a fixture in the family farming operation her entire adult life. Over the years, in addition to taking care of her home and family, she regularly drove the tractor to rake hay, run the hay baler and do other work during the farming season. At the age of 82, she still hauls grain in a 2-ton truck during harvest, helping her son Dan with their own farms as well as other farmland he rents. She also does a lot of cooking and prepares lunch every day for the field hands during farming operations.
She points out the farming operation is still a family affair and that her oldest son, Dennis, came down from his home in northern Illinois this year to help with the harvest. She and her grandson hauled the crops to the grain elevator.
In her spare time, Bierbaum sews and crochets. She is making afghans for four of her grandchildren.
“I’m working on Christmas presents,” she says.
Active and energetic, she never lets herself stay idle for long.
Still driving everywhere she needs to go, she recently drove all the way to Bloomington by herself to visit her family members there. For the last three years, she has flown to Connecticut with her daughter-in-law on Labor Day weekend to see her granddaughter.
Well-known throughout the community, Bierbaum was thrown a surprise party on her 80th birthday at the town hall in Fosterburg. Dozens of friends and family from all around the area attended. Many in attendance had known her since she was growing up.
When asked the secret to her good health and independence, she says you just have to “keep going.” She explains there is always something to be done and staying busy keeps her healthy.
Many people in their eighties are content to sit back and let others take care of them. Others prefer to stay engaged and remain active. Jo Bierbaum not only stays active, she continues to be a key contributor to the success of her family, friends and community.