OELWEIN-- Robert Koob bought his first tractor when he was sixteen, and he's never looked back on the idea of choosing farming as a lifelong career. Unlike most farmers who grow up living the farm life generation to generation, that wasn't the case for Robert. Koob's father, Reuben, worked at Rath Packing and his grandfather, Fred Koob, was a seasonal employee of the Oelwein Parks Department. His grandmother worked a dietary job at Mercy Hospital.
"Everybody told me I couldn't farm," having not grown up in a full-time working farm operation. But Koob was ready to prove them all wrong. He recalls, "The guidance counselor told me, 'You're a nut to farm. You won't have any time off'," but Robert didn't listen. With his Farmall H , purchased for $237, Koob's first job was to plow under 40 acres of cornstalks for a neighbor. And from there, he started doing custom work for others. He put in his first crop in 1968, renting land nearby.
"It was the afternoon of the big tornado and I got soaked by rain as I finished up," he remembers. The acreage where Robert and Eileen live today, is the same site where Bob's grandparents had resettled after losing their acreage east of Hazleton during the Depression. The family rented the place, and then in 1957, Reuben Koob bought the house and 7.5 acres. They had six milk cows and a few hogs as the couple also worked off the farm and raised their family at 17224 25th Street, just west of the Oelwein city limits.
Robert and Eileen graduated high school and married on Sept. 2, 1972. From the wedding ceremony in Hazleton, they traveled to their new home driving an 870 Case tractor. Having known one another in high school, Eileen and Robert were attracted to one another by their shared love for the outdoors and farm life. Even before they were engaged, Eileen was helping Bob in his farm operation, and often ran the baler.
"I fit right in with all that," she says, even though her own family had moved from their farm when she was 12. It was in August of 1988 when Bob and Eileen moved to the acreage where his grandparents had settled a couple of decades earlier. In 1992, the Koobs bought a 40-acre parcel nearby to provide more forage for the growing operation and their growing family. The couple's grown children include: Karen Nakata, Kensington, Md.; Don, Jerome, Angela, Waynesboro, Penn.; Jessica (deceased) and Brittany, Durham, NC. There are five grandchildren.
Although Jerome had worked at Hub City Implement, he has joined the farm operation full-time and is, of course, their 'fix-it' guy in addition to working in the 500-acre crop rotation and the family's custom crop and forage harvesting operation. Don handles the day-to-day operation of the 350 feeder cattle and 60 stock cows, also helping in the custom farming business.
"We do a little bit of everything to keep busy," says Don.
Don and his wife, Raychal and three children, live on Highway 3, where the feeder cattle operation is located. Jerome and his wife, Staci, and a son, live on R Avenue. Eileen works at the RAM Center in Oelwein, but she helps on the farm where needed, including picking up rocks or driving tractor.
As Bob begins to stand back and work more as a 'quiet manager' as his sons manage the family farm operation, it leaves him and Eileen more time to enjoy their five grandchildren. Eileen also enjoys any opportunity to travel with her daughters, who are all situated on the East Coast.