The Terry and Linda Lauby family was honored as the 2018 Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce Farm Family of Year Friday night at the annual chamber banquet at Kirk’s.
They are Southsiders, a nickname given years ago to the families farming and living on the south side of the Platte River. For 111 years they have been a part of Dawson County agriculture. As with many farms at the turn of the century Michael J. Lauby ran a diversified operation including sheep, cattle, hogs, corn and alfalfa.
From the 1930s through the 1950s, sons of Michael J. Lauby - Louis, Chris, Mike and Steve, joined the operation and the focus turned to cattle and row crops. Then in 1961 Lauby Co., Inc., was founded by brothers Steve and Mike E. Lauby.
“We had roughly 1,000 head in the 1960s and everything was in the home feedlot,” recalls Terry.
Today Lauby Co. Inc. is permitted by the Department of Environmental Quality for 6,500 head, and they are split between the North Yard and the South Yard. “We started building the north yard in 1975-76 and can put 4,500 there and 2,000 in the South Yard," he noted.
In addition, they run about 600 acres of row crops and lease, share crop and own about 600 acres of alfalfa.
Terry Lauby was born on Jan. 21, 1947, the second child, oldest son of Stephen Joseph and Margaret Adell (Andersen) Lauby. His siblings included Anne, Brian, James (Jamie), Mary, Jane, Anthony (Tony), Edward, Anders (Andy) and Jason.
Terry went on to graduate from St. Ann’s High School with the Class of 1965. A day and half after graduation in June of 1965, Terry joined the Army. After completing basic training and some additional courses he spent a year in Vietnam from March 1966 to March 1967. “I was stationed six months near the DMZ in the north, and the last six months were in the south along the Mekong Delta. My entire deployment I was part of the Army Security Agency (ASA),” notes Terry.
Meanwhile back in Lexington on the north side of the river Linda Warner was growing up on her parent’s farm. Born on Jan. 2, 1949, Linda was the oldest child of Ross Claude and Elizabeth (Reinhardt) Warner.
Joining her were sister, Pamela and brother Charles. After graduating in 1967 from Lexington High School, Linda spent 13 months in Sweden with the International Christian Youth Exchange.
After returning from her international experience Linda went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) for two years studying general education. She met Terry shortly thereafter and came back and worked at Farmer’s State Bank. “Be careful what you wish for or say you will never do,” she said. “I vowed I would never marry a farmer. Look what happened.”
The couple was married on June 28, 1970 and note they remember the day well because the high in Lexington was 107.
Back in Lexington Terry began assuming more responsibility in the family corporation. As the years progressed one of his main goals was to simplify the operation. “When Grandpa was alive he had 17 hired men and used to harness 9-11 teams of mules.”
Tractor power gradually filled in for those mules, but they still had some more simplifying to do, he noted. “We used to grind two to three loads of small bales about every other day for roughage in the cattle rations,” he said. “We converted to large round bales and that has made a huge difference in labor. We put up between 3,000 and 4,000 round bales a year and that is usually enough to meet our needs.”
Everything they grow goes through the feedyard, well almost. For the last five years they have grown about 80 acres of soybeans for rotation on corn ground. “That’s why soybeans don’t work out for us because we can’t put them through the feedyard. On the rotation we do get some benefits on the corn crop, but they are a challenge to market and get to the elevator,” said Terry.
For the most part then it is corn and alfalfa, although Terry notes, “We dabbled in growing seed corn for DeKalb for a time.”
While the feedlot still requires a lot of hands on work, technology is also part of day-to-day operations. Terry notes they are like a cattle hotel, taking in not only their own cattle, but also custom feeding cattle from all over. A drive through the two feedlots has Terry pointing to a pen from Virginia, then Kentucky, one from Colorado and another with Sandhills cattle. “Other than from the Northeastern United States we get cattle from almost every one of the lower 48 states,” he said.
After they were married Linda continued to work at Farmer’s State Bank, working almost until their first daughter Heidi was born in 1975. Second daughter Jessica arrived in 1980.
“After Heidi was born I went to work for Bill’s Agri-Service doing part-time work for a while, but in 1977 I started helping Dad Lauby. I worked at silage time weighing trucks and one thing led to another and now I do the books for Lauby Co., Inc. I love working with figures.”
Even before the girls were born Linda started volunteering as a 4-H leader for the Southside Homemakers 4-H Club. By the time Heidi and Jessica were old enough to belong to 4-H, a whole group of neighborhood girls and boys were tackling projects, special 4-H competitions and doing community service projects. By the time she left the leader ranks Linda had served as club leader for 35 years.
Heidi graduated from Lexington High School in 1993 and Jessica followed in 1998. Both went to UNL where Heidi graduated in 1998 with a degree in fashion design and merchandising. Jessica received a degree in sociology and psychology in 2002.
The busy year continued as Heidi married Edwin Markie that November. As Edwin is making the military his career, they have been on the move with his various postings. They have two daughters, Ellery and Adelyn.
In 2006 Jessica married Michael Bliven and they are now the parents of Terrence and Freya.
The grandchildren, who affectionately call Terry and Linda “Pa” and “Ma,” visit the farm often and Pa and Ma in turn make many trips to see them.
Over the years Terry and Linda have contributed countless hours of volunteer time to their community and church. In addition to her years as a 4-H leader, Linda was active in the Platte Homemakers Extension Club and at First Presbyterian Church.
Terry has served on the District 15 school board, the Dawson County Cattlemen’s Board, and was a founding member of the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles. In addition, he helped with the local Honor Guard at military funerals until his cancer diagnosis in August 2017.
His battle with esophageal cancer has been filled with ups and downs, but recent scans show he is on the mend. The Laubys note they couldn’t have gotten through last summer and fall without lots of other support. “You don’t become successful over the years without help from family, friends and neighbors,” said Terry. “It’s been amazing.”
Terry’s brother Ed Lauby, cousin Tom Lauby and part-time employee Tyler Rodman have been among the feedlot team to keep things running smoothly.
They have also received tremendous support from long-time customers. Recently Janet and Arnold VanderEide, customers and friends from Illinois, stopped by the feedlot to check up not only on their cattle on feed, but the Laubys, too.
“I love those relationships we’ve built over the years,” said Linda.
She summed up both her and Terry’s feelings about the business they’ve built together. “I love it on the farm. Farming is in my heart.”