Faith is important for Oklahoma farm family that has endured death, drought

Neither the cancer that claimed her husband's life nor the ongoing battle with drought can shake the faith of Karen Krehbiel, of Hydro, Oklahoma.
BY BRYAN PAINTER bpainter@opubco.com Published: June 30, 2013
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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.

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