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Monday close-up
140-year-old family farm in Benjamin staying close to original roots

It’s a cool, fall afternoon, and 87-year-old Payson resident, Ron Jensen, sits at his kitchen table inside a nearly 50-year-old home he designed and built himself.

His wife of 60 years, Gerry Jensen, sits at the kitchen counter and looks on as her husband talks about their family’s life on the farm. Tears well up in their eyes as Ron Jensen tells about a life once lived — a life still worth hanging on to.

It was in the 1860s when Ron Jensen’s grandfather, Carl John Slein, partnered with his wife’s brother in purchasing some land in Benjamin after immigrating from Scandinavia. After spending time working in the mines, farming looked to be the safer and possibly more lucrative option — and for a while, it was.

“It was the Zion culture back then,” Ron Jensen said. “The early settlers were building communities and farming the land, and my grandparents were part of that.”

Ron Jensen’s grandfather soon bought out the rest of the farm from his brother-in-law, and was building a successful farm with a variety of crops and livestock. Then, World War I came, followed by the Great Depression and World War II, bringing along many years of economic hardship. The farm in Benjamin, like many other farms, nearly went to ruin. However, Ron Jensen’s father, who was now leading the operation, saw poultry as a way to make a viable farm living.

“In the late 1930s and 1940s, my dad had a chicken coop,” Ron Jensen said. “During those years, we had between 900 and 1,500 chickens, and at that time, that was a lot. I remember as a young child having to gather the eggs and brush off all the chicken poop so the eggs were clean before loading them into the carton to sell. It was a hard job, and we kids sure did complain, but we learned a lot.”

With the growth of mechanization, gathering by hand and washing eggs became a thing of the past for many farms. Ron Jensen said that if farmers didn’t embrace the use of machines to do all the egg gathering and cleaning, then they fell behind, and his family’s farm did just that. Even so, farming has a variety of mediums, and soon the family began to farm sugar beets, sweet corn and string beans.

“We would harvest our crops for the California Packing Corp., which is now known as Del Monte,” he said. “Sugar beets were a popular crop back then, and we did all right for ourselves during that time.”

While farming was a large part of his childhood, like many young men, Ron Jensen wanted to see what was beyond the acres of sugar, corn and livestock. He wanted to expand his knowledge base beyond what was taught at the local school and what he learned on the farm.

So, he went to college, joined the Army and married his sweetheart. The early 1960s were good to him and his family, as he earned a master’s degree in economics, started a job for the government as a rural housing loan officer and became a father to his oldest two daughters.

It was only a few years later, however, when war struck his family again, and he was called into active duty to serve during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969. Being called to fight in a battlefield was hard for the young husband and father, and when he came home, he would return to the family farm often to find solace and drown out negative thoughts with positive action.

“At the farm, there is always something to do — feeding animals, hauling hay, digging and filling holes,” Ron Jensen said. “It helped keep my mind occupied.”

Visiting and working on his family’s farm, he said, was a form of recreation for him as he worked several jobs to support his growing family through the 1960s and 70s. It was in 1977 when his father asked him to take over the farm. Ron Jensen knew what a huge responsibility running a farm was, but he understood how important it was to his family and future generations to come.

With two older daughters, two young boys and a new baby girl, he agreed to take it over, and together, continue the farming tradition. For the next several years, the Jensen Family Farm planted and harvested a variety of crops, including sweet corn that the three daughters would bring home to sell to neighbors.

The kids also participated in local stock shows that included fun pastimes like the calf scramble. It was during one such event when the oldest son, Eric, won a calf he named Suzie Q., which the family was now charged with raising. A couple years later, their other son, Ryan, won another calf, beginning what is now a major source of the farm’s production.

“I couldn’t see feeding just two cows,” Ron Jensen said. “I had a pasture, so I bought a bunch of heifers, and we started raising cows.”

In addition to the 80 acres of farmland that the family owns, the Jensen Family Farm has a 160-acre pasture for raising cattle.

“We spent a lot of our time out at the farm, feeding and taking care of the cows and hauling hay,” Ron Jensen said. “We didn’t get out for family vacations because we were on the farm, and sometimes the kids would complain. We felt bad that we didn’t take the kids other places, but years later, it is the farm where the kids and grandchildren like to come back to.”

In fact, three of the five Jensen children have homes on the farm, and spend much of their time running it. Many of the couple’s 17 grandchildren have learned how to take care of cows and haul hay.

Ron Jensen, through tear-filled eyes, recalled a time when a truck carrying hay came down through their Payson neighborhood, with many of the barrels tumbling out the back. The driver of the truck needed help loading the hay back on, and two of Ron Jensen’s grandsons went out to help the man haul the hay so he could get on his way.

“I was so proud of those two boys,” Ron Jensen said. “Growing up working on a farm, they knew how to haul hay, and they knew how to work. It was real neat to watch those boys do what not many these days can.”

Ron Jensen is the first to acknowledge that the farming industry isn’t what it used to be. He says the farm barely breaks even each year, if that. Each of his kids who work and live on the farm have outside jobs that bring in the bulk of their income. Even so, the Jensen family is working hard every day to keep the farming culture alive.

“Farming is a dying art,” Ron Jensen said. “So many have gone the way of big corporations, mechanization and selling off land. Our farm in Benjamin has been in the family almost 140 years and five generations. I hope to keep it alive in my family for years to come.”

LDS Church releases details on new 2020 children and youth program

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced new details about the upcoming Children and Youth Program, which will begin in January.

The announcements are being made through a broadcast video featuring M. Russel Ballard, acting president of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other general authorities of the church. Details were also released on http://childrenandyouth.churchofjesuschrist.org.

The new program will be more flexible overall, allowing children and youth to set personalized goals, and allowing parents and leaders to customize their efforts in teaching lessons, planning activities and helping children and youth grow in general.

“This is going to be the most exciting youth program and child program that we’ve ever had in the history of the church,” Ballard said in the broadcast.

The church describes the new approach as “intended to help all girls and boys, young women and young men discover their eternal identity, build character and resilience, develop life skills, serve others, and fulfill their divine roles as daughters and sons of God.

The new initiative focuses on three different categories: gospel learning, activities and service, and personal development.

Gospel learning

Among the changes are continuing the church’s recent focus on a home-centered church. The “Come Follow Me” program newly implemented this year for home and church use will further integrate children and teens starting in 2020.

This includes better aligning the new program between family study, church lessons and classes for children and youth, and the church’s seminary program, in which teenagers in ninth to 12th grade participate in an additional class to their school classes.

Activities and service

As announced in May 2018, the church will no longer implement or affiliate with the Boy Scouts of America program starting with the new year, instead aligning with more church-specific activities and service opportunities.

According to the broadcast, the new program will continue the church’s tradition of frequent activities involving children and teens gathering for fun, service, learning, spiritual experiences and adventure. Wards are encouraged to hold these activities for young women and young men weekly if possible, as has been done in the past in weekly weekday gatherings.

The current activity programs for children under the age of 11 — Cub Scouts for boys and Activity Days for girls — will be replaced by bimonthly Primary Activities, which will still be held separately for boys and girls.

A church website will launch in November listing ideas for activities for Primary Activities, youth activities and family activities.

Church leaders in the broadcast also said the church will continue young men and young women camps, joint youth conferences and trek conferences, but those activities will alternate with the new For the Strength of Youth conference, or FSY conference, which was recently announced as modeled after the Especially for Youth conference, or EFY conference, which will no longer be implemented.

FSY, involving a large gathering of teens participating in a weeklong program spiritual learning and fun activities, has already been taking place worldwide, and the conference will be expanded to the U.S. and Canada in 2020. As opposed to EFY, which costed hundreds of dollars and was only held in a small number of locations across the country, FSY will give every teen in the church, ages 14 to 18, the opportunity to attend.

According to the broadcast, FSY will take place every other year.

Personal development

The church currently implements programs for children and teens with specific requirements regarding personal growth: “Faith in God” for children ages 3 to 12, “Personal Progress” for young women ages 12 to 18, and “Duty to God” for young men ages 12 to 18. The new youth initiative will discontinue these programs starting in 2020.

Specific details on what will replace these three programs have not yet been released, but the church says the initiative will do away with prescribing a list of the same requirements to each child and teen, instead focusing on personalized opportunities for growth in all areas of their lives.

“The significant difference from the past programs to now is that you will have an opportunity through personal revelation to choose what you need to do in your life to better follow the savior and how you can progress and get better in the things that are important to you,” said Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, in the broadcast.

The broadcast emphasized the importance of children and teen’s agency and ability to receive personal revelation for themselves.

This new personal development program will include family, friends and leaders’ help and encouragement.

A Face-to-Face event with Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be held Nov. 17 to share additional details of the initiative.

More Utah teachers now required to document immunizations, exemptions

OGDEN — Teachers and day care staff in Weber and Morgan counties will be required to provide documentation that they have received the immunizations recommended for adults, starting fall 2020.

Teachers may also provide an exemption form declaring that they have chosen not to receive immunizations, said MaryLou Adams, nursing director for Weber-Morgan Health Department.

Members of the Weber-Morgan Board of Health voted unanimously in favor of the new requirement at their meeting Monday.

No one attended the public hearing on the regulation that was held Sept. 16 at the Health Department. The department did not receive any oral or written comments on the regulation in response to public announcements, Adams told the board.

“It’s been a rule for the children for many years,” Adams said, “and so we just thought it would be a good idea to have ... all staff for the school districts plus the day cares (document immunizations) ... so that we can determine ... during the course of (a potential disease) outbreak, who is it that shouldn’t be at school. And that protects (teachers) also. It doesn’t just make it so that (teachers) won’t pass it on to kids if they happen to get the disease, but so that the kids won’t pass it to them.”

Prior to this vote, immunizations had been recommended for teachers, but documentation was not required, Adams said.

“Now, where it’s required, it’s just going to be easier for everybody’s records to be accessed,” Adams said, “and to make those kinds of decisions that need to be made quickly during an outbreak.”

Districts will determine whether to keep documentation on file or require teachers to maintain their own up-to-date documentation, Adams said.

The Health Department is aiming for a “soft transition,” Adams said. Right now, staff are working with schools to spread awareness of the new requirement and let teachers know how they can access records or get necessary immunizations. This outreach will prepare teachers and staff for fall 2020, when the requirement will go into effect.

If there are large enough numbers of teachers in a particular school or district who needed immunizations, Adams said that the department would definitely consider holding immunization clinics at schools or district offices.

The department does offer vaccines at a discounted cost for individuals who are unable to pay for them or who lack insurance.

“We can evaluate each individual case, and if they need it to stay in school and to stay working, then it’s a judgment call, and we’ll try and do everything we can to get everybody taken care of without having it strap their financial situation,” Adams said.

The full language of the new Weber-Morgan health regulation is not yet available, but will be posted on the Weber-Morgan Health Department website, Adams said.

Salt Lake County adopted a similar requirement in June 2016, though the regulation does not include day care workers.

The language of Salt Lake County’s regulation and the county’s exemption forms are available online at http://slco.org/health/immunizations under the workplace policies section.

Davis County does not require teachers to be immunized, but the department has been in discussions with Davis School District to develop an immunization plan for school employees, said Rob Nunn, public information officer with the Davis County Health Department.

“Our office is looking to move to that direction,” Nunn said. “It’s a matter of ... working with (Davis School District) to see how the plan should work for them.”