HYDRO — Cancer took the life of Karen Krehbiel's husband, Jeff, in 2011. And cracks have snaked their way through the fields of their family's farm during the drought.
But in both cases, faith has and will continue to sustain Karen and her daughter, Brittany.
On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 42.09 percent of Oklahoma remains in some form of drought. That includes the moderate to severe drought where the Krehbiels live between Hydro and Hinton.
They've battled drought for some time, and when Jeff died Sept. 6, 2011, after battling brain cancer, that area was in exceptional drought. There have only been 14 weeks since his death in which they weren't experiencing some form of drought.
“Throughout the whole process with the cancer, we believed the next week, the next month would be better,” said Karen, 47. “You live with hope for the future. Although it's not the same, with the drought you consistently watch the drought monitor and at times it's the worst it's been in x-number of years. But we have faith that things are going to get better.
“We have Heaven to look forward to, so no matter what happens here, we have hope.”
Staying on the farm
Jeff was the fourth generation on a family farm that began when his great-grandfather Jacob Pankratz traded a team of horses, a wagon and a load of oats for 160 acres. Jacob's daughter Margaret married Val Krehbiel, and their son, Wayne Krehbiel, is Jeff's father.
Brittany Krehbiel, 17, wants to be the fifth generation to work on the family farm some day.
So when Jeff died, Karen had no thoughts about leaving the farm. With the help of her father-in-law, Wayne, who dropped plans for retirement, and with assistance from friends, they continue on. It's a farming operation that includes wheat, which is primarily sold for seed wheat. They also raise milo, canola, peanuts and have a commercial sheep business.
Plus, the Krehbiels sell irrigation systems, and Karen has an accounting business.
This week, they finished their 2013 wheat harvest. This is a crop that has had to endure drought, freezes and some hail. But it made it, she said.
“When we put the crop in the ground, you just give it back to God,” she said. “And if there's something there to harvest, you take it. You go harvest it.
“This crop seems to be OK, but to be honest, I have not put the pencil to it yet.”
In addition to the farm businesses and responsibilities as an accountant, Karen gives of her time to the agriculture industry, as a new member of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry's board of directors, representing 20 counties, mostly in southwest Oklahoma.
She also has been active for some time with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and others.
“Karen has demonstrated strong leadership skills as a Farm Bureau leader,” Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Mike Spradling said. “She is personable and a great communicator.”
Jeff Krehbiel was a member of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, a past chairman of the wheat commission, and also a past president of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association. He served the National Association of Wheat Growers on their Farm Policy Committee. He had also been a member of Class IX of the Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program and Karen was a member of Class X.
‘ ... this peace ...'
Karen can look out a window of their farmhouse and see the cemetery where Jeff was buried on what would have been his 48th birthday.
But she has a peace.
During his illness, often in the morning she'd wake up with an old hymn on her mind.
“I had this resource that I was able to draw on that just gave us peace whether he lived or died,” she said. “There was still turmoil. It wasn't like because of our faith everything was rosy agriculturally. We're still exposed to that same drought. It's not like our land miraculously got rain and everybody else didn't. We're a part of that drought too. But we just have this peace that this is all temporary and you're able to face whatever comes.
“And there's this contentment that I will see Jeff again. This is not the end.”