CHARLESTOWN — Andrew Huttsell has been farming for most of his life, and at 84, he still isn't ready to slow down just yet.
The Charlestown farmer owns a farm on Charlestown Bethlehem Road, where he grows hay and soybeans and tends to about 30 cattle. He bought his farm in 1965 at age 31, and he has been farming it ever since. For about 10 years, he leased out part of his land to a local soybean farmer, but he still takes care of the hay and the cattle himself with some help from his children and grandchildren.
For Huttsell, farming is a family legacy. His father, Alvin Huttsell, started working as a sharecropper during the Great Depression, and he worked on a variety of Southern Indiana farms ranging from Jeffersonville to Bethlehem. His father set up a dairy farm operation for property owners in Bethlehem, so at age 12, Huttsell started milking cows, and he would work "daylight to dark" with his father.
"[My father] taught me a lot," he said. "Mainly he taught me how to take care of myself. When I left home, I knew how to go to work and take care of myself."
His family didn't have much growing up, he said, but it was a happy childhood.
"We didn’t know no difference, so we were happy," he said. "We always had enough to eat, plenty of clothes and a good house to live in. How much can you ask for, really? That’s all you need."
He worked for other farmers after he left home, and in 1955, he started working at General Electric, where he stayed for about 22 years until he left in 1977. He continued farming even with his job at General Electric, because it was necessary in order to "get on his feet."
He also continued working with his father, and they farmed together at a leased property in Bethlehem until he acquired enough equipment to start his farm, which is located close to where he grew up. His father was glad to see Huttsell buy his own farm, he said, and he spent five to seven years working there with his son.
"It’s what [my father] done all of his life," he said. "He worked for somebody else all of his life, and I said, well, I’d like to work for myself."
His farm has come a long way since he started out, he said. At first, the farm was covered in weeds, and the fields were overgrown with bushes and trees that he had to clear.
When Huttsell first started out, the farm was only 271 acres. Throughout the years, he has bought several neighboring properties, and he now owns 425 acres of farmland.
"I was like Johnny Cash," he said. I got 'one piece at a time.'"
For years, he frequently worked day and night for seven days a week, he said. In addition to running his own farm, he farmed on five other properties, he said, and he was still going to work at General Electric.
"I had to keep [my farm] going," he said. "It was hard, but I enjoyed it. That’s the only way I could ever have anything. I had to work like that to have anything. When you start out with nothing, it’s hard. You can’t get anywhere doing nothing, that’s for sure. I bought this farm here, and people said, 'I don’t know what you wanted with it, you’ll never pay for it.' As you can see, it’s done alright."
His late wife Billie and his five children all worked on the farm, and before he transitioned just to cattle, hay and soybeans, they also raised hogs, chickens and tobacco. His daughter, Andrena Bruner, said when she was a kid, she would see him from her window as he plowed the fields at night after he came home from General Electric.
"He just was a hard worker," she said. "He made time for us and he was a good dad, but he worked all the time. He doesn’t know what it means to slow down. He’s 84 now, and he doesn’t slow down."
Huttsell said unlike many farmers in the area, this spring's rainy weather has not caused many issues with his crops, and he was able to plant early enough.
"I can’t complain, but a lot of people have got it pretty hard and were hit pretty hard by the weather," he said.
His son recently moved back to the area from Tennessee to help out, and eventually, he will take over his father's farm. But Huttsell intends to continue farming as long as he's able.
"It’s a good life, and I enjoy it," Huttsell said. "I enjoy everything about farming. I like to work. Everybody says I’m crazy. They say I do everything the hard way. I’ve always just done pretty much all of it myself — all that I could."