Breaking new ground: Female farmer works the fields her father left behind
Buxton, N.D Half buried under the hood of her 1951 Studebaker, Marcia Hoplin adjusts the car's carburetor while a heavy rain pounds the roof of her farm shop and surrounding crop fields. "It's giving me a little trouble," Hoplin said as she pulls...
Half buried under the hood of her 1951 Studebaker, Marcia Hoplin adjusts the car's carburetor while a heavy rain pounds the roof of her farm shop and surrounding crop fields.
"It's giving me a little trouble," Hoplin said as she pulls herself out of the car's engine compartment. "The carburetor is sticking."
The gray Studebaker holds special meaning for Hoplin, who began restoring the car with her dad, Paul, in the early 1980s.
"I enjoy working on it," she said. "I just wish my dad was here to see it."
She said working on the vintage car helps pass the time when she's waiting to get back into her fields.
In 1992, Hoplin took over her father's 1,200-acre Traill County farm. Four years later, Paul Hoplin died of cancer.
"I always totally loved being on the farm," she said. "Dad always said, 'You can't do it by yourself,' but I kept ignoring it.
"Once farming is in your blood, it doesn't go away," she said, a set of pliers dangling from a leather holster on her belt.
Her fields are thick with soybeans. A row of box elder trees line the road leading to Hoplin's well-manicured farmyard about six miles southwest of Buxton.
With the help of Don Condit, a local teacher and part-time hired hand, Hoplin also grows wheat, corn, soybeans and navy beans.
Two houses are among about 10 buildings on the Hoplin farmstead. Hoplin lives in one house with her mother, Muriel. Her aunt, Harriet Olson, lives in the other.
Muriel and Harriet do most of the cooking; they tend to the farm's lawns and flower gardens and taxi Marcia to and from her fields.
Muriel said it wasn't a surprise when her daughter took over the farm. Hoplin's older brother, Jeff, chose another path, leaving the farm for a career in banking in Grand Forks.
"She never wanted to do anything but farm," Muriel said. When she was young, she didn't want dolls or to do things that little girls do.
"She wanted to tag along with her father."
Hoplin, 47, a graduate of North Dakota State University, said her biggest challenges are the same as those for any other farmer: marketing crops and dealing with adverse weather.
"I'd hate to try to outwork her," neighboring farmer Mike Kozojed said. "She has a great attitude and work ethic, so it's not surprising that she can handle the operation.
"Farming is tough work and she's done it with class," he said.
Like other farmers, Hoplin said she sometimes calls on family and friends for help.
"It's a man's world, but it seems like I'm treated like everybody else," she said. "There are a lot of good people out here."
She's quick to mention Kozojed and a laundry list of farmers, elevator operators and other people who have helped her along the way.
"You're not an island," she said. "You surround yourself with good people.
"They help you and you help them."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Zent at (701) 241-5526