“I heard the Lord tell me, ‘Jump back in,’” Clair Esbenshade, a Pennsylvania farmer tells Farm Journal, “I scrambled into the cab, and that was it. It rolled with me in it, but seconds before, I’d have been dead for sure.”
On a long Fall harvesting day farming on a sloped hill with his hopper full to the brim, he heard his combine make an unusual sound. The machine had lodged onto a stump, he tried to reserve but the heavy load didn’t budge. Just as he stepped onto the platform to locate the blockage, he heard the unforgettable groan of 14,000 pounds of steel and a voice that saved his life. . He knew God saved him that day.
“The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land.” Deuteronomy 28:8 NIV
Year after year the Esbenshade family works their Pennsylvania land. Over 200 years ago, Clair Esbenshade’s family moved from Germany to Strasburg, Pennsylvania in the pursuit of freedom, where they quickly got to work sowing seeds of hope to provide for their family. Generation after generation rising with the early morning dawn, planting the roots of legacy through unshakable bond and heritage, Clair, now 71 years old, opens his tired eyes unto their Shade Valley Farm, knowing it’s time to give as he has been given.
Brevity of Life
Raised on a dairy farm, Esbenshade found his home caring for the animals and land. In his early days, he began his professional offerings with milk transport and a poultry house until the market began to shift towards larger corporations.
In 1998 sales began to shift, Esbenshade and his wife decided to move where there was more space for them to farm what was needed on the market; corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, cow-calf herd, turkeys and hogs.
Now decades later, he has raised both the farm and his family, hard to distinguish one from the other. As age makes physical demands harder to keep up with, Esbenshade sees a new dawn in the eyes of his sons, Todd and Kyle.
Todd started by helping his father build a hog barn, “I skipped my high school graduation ceremony and joined a harvest crew from 2001 to 2005 and did odd jobs in winter.” He joined his father full-time in 2008.
A few years later, Kyle joined the family business and Shade Family Farm LLC was born.
“You can’t be on a farm and not recognize the brevity of life,” Esbenshade says. “Life is short, and you have to be ready to provide your children with an opportunity to provide for their own families.”
Trust on the Farm
The family does disagree a little bit here and there, but the important thing to them is that they all have the farm’s best interests in mind. Whether it’s covering for one another or working long hours into the night, they know they can count on each other.
Kyle tells Farm Journal, “We’re confident in each other’s ability because nobody is here for simply a paycheck, they have skin in the game.”
In 2020, Esbenshade placed Shade Family Farm’s into a trust for his son’s, “A heritage is about far more than money.”