More than a century of farming has laid the foundation for a strong future in agriculture, extending to a fourth generation for the Kochis family and Kochis Farm.
Virgil Kochis’ grandfather, Andrew, immigrated from what is now Slovakia through Ellis Island in 1902. Andrew and his wife, Lucy, came west to Colorado in 1908 and successfully applied for 160 acres through the Homestead Act. They passed that property along to Virgil’s parents, who accumulated that acreage, plus additional land, that today encompasses 5,000 dryland crop acres and 5,000 acres for grazing.
Virgil and Jan inherited the family farm and are now the current operators, along with their son, Michael, who farms with them. Together, they grow winter wheat, corn, birdseed millet, sunflowers and milo, along with forage sorghum for 200 head of beef cattle. The family received the Centennial Farm & Ranch award in 2016.
“We felt like it was important to acknowledge the fact that family farms can survive for a long period of time. We really felt it was an honor to be recognized as a Centennial Farm,” Jan says.
Evolving and Diversifying
Jan believes that for each generation, diversification has been the key to surviving the tough years. Virgil’s parents operated a dairy, providing steady income even when the crops were poor. Today, the Kochis family raises certified wheat seed and has a contract with Ardent Mills in Denver to grow white wheat used in whole-grain white flour. The addition of 30 wind turbines on their farmland, part of the Rush Creek Wind Farm, is the family’s newest endeavor.
“We raise all these different crops. We have our livestock, but our new cash crop is the wind turbines,” Jan shares. “It doesn’t matter if it rains or hails. As long as the wind blows, we have some income.”
Regardless of what they’re growing, Jan is proud of the family’s longevity in Colorado agriculture.
“Over that time, you have put in a lot of hard work and investment, and there is some reason that you have lasted that long,” she says. “The farms that are Centennial Farms are truly the farmers that love what they do and are very passionate. That’s what has made it last that long, because there certainly have been hard times for the people off and on throughout that 100-year span of time.”
Colorado families currently farming or ranching properties that have remained in the same family continuously for at least 100 years are eligible for the Centennial Farms Award. For more information, visit historycolorado.org. The deadline to apply each year is May 31.