At 89 years old, Orwin Gubler, along with his son, Blaine, continues to farm between 100 and 110 acres of alfalfa and grain in what is one of the last and large open space areas within the City of St. George.
When Gubler and his wife Velda Leany Gubler first moved out to this area in 1950-51, there were no neighbors for several miles in either direction.
Orwin Gubler was born on March 23, 1924 in the Santa Clara home where he was raised. The home was built by his great grandfather, Casper Gubler. Orwin graduated from Dixie High School and went into the armed forces during World War II.
He joined the Navy, serving almost three years in the Pacific Theater of the war. He spent one month in San Diego training for amphibious landings, then was shipped to Pearl Harbor until the end of the war.
At one point during the war, after a month of leave in Utah, he was stationed on a seagoing tugboat that hauled supplies from Oakland to Stockton, Calif. On Victory in Japan day in 1945, he was on a ship when it passed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Harbor. He was formally released from the Navy in Stockton, Calif.
Returning to Santa Clara, he met a young woman and they began dating. Her name was Velda Leany and they agreed she would wait for him after he returned from an LDS mission to Southern California and Arizona.
Following his mission, they were married Jan. 20, 1949 in the St. George LDS Temple, and they began to look for a farm to purchase. His uncle told him a farm was available down in what is now known as the Green Valley area. It consisted of 45 acres. Orwin bought 19 acres and rented the rest that first year. The next year, he bought the remainder of the 45 acres and began feeding weiner calves that he bought at auction, and then sold the next spring for “feeders.”
Orwin was feeding 200-300 head of cows at a time, and he was also raising 50 head of feeder pigs. A few years later, he quit raising the pigs.
During this time, he would plow up a piece of alfalfa and plant barley in its place, then during harvest time, he would put the barley in a silage pit. This rotation of crops continued up until about 2011.
He later bought a 120-acre farm in Panguitch to provide summer range for his cattle.
In addition to raising cattle and crops, he has spent a life time putting in cement ditches and leveling the ground.
“I had good control of the water from the Santa Clara Creek through the St. George-Santa Clara Field Canal Company,” he said. “I used to flood irrigate, but it is all sprinkle irrigation now.”
When the alfalfa is ready for harvesting, his son Blaine uses the swather to cut the alfalfa. They then use one John Deere baler to bale their hay, which amounts to five cuttings each summer.
The alfalfa hay is mostly sold to people who own horses, while some goes to Las Vegas, and other hay goes to the Shivwits Reservation.
But at 89 years old, Orwin says “I’ve about had it (with running the farm). I’m two-thirds blind. I’m trying to get my son to take it over. I don’t want to retire but it will eventually be turned over to the kids.”
The Gublers have six children, one of which is deceased, along with 19 grandchildren and 37 great grand children and three other babies on the way, he said.
Orwin and his wife, Velda, turned over 10 acres of family-owned land to family members northwest of the farm for them to build homes “and have them close by” and to “get some help out of them.”
Even so, Orwin and his son Blaine still farm over 100 acres, most of which is on the northeast side of the Santa Clara River, but with some acreage on the southwest side of the river as well.
“When I was trying to get the place going, I’d work 60 hours a week during the summer time,” Orwin said. “If I had to turn around and do it again, I’d (still) do it,” even though “it hasn’t been easy.”
As the children were growing up, his wife routinely transported the children to school and church activities. As the family grew, their one bedroom and one bathroom house also grew into what is now a 3-bedroom 2-bath house.
As we sit on a wooden bench outside his home, he points to two pecan trees the family still get nuts from each year. From this vantage point, he also likes to point out that he can see both Pine Valley Mountain and Red Mountain – “two dear places to me,” he said.
He also recognizes that residential and commercial growth are all around his sole remaining farm.
“When I came out here,” Orwin said, “it was just a cow trail,” referring to Indian Hills Drive, “but now it’s going to be made into a three-lane road. They are surveying it now. There’s lots of history here.”
Orwin says he also gets tired of real estate agents trying to get him to sell the farm. “But when the grand kids want to move out here, I will give them a spot,” he said.
Even at 89 years old, Orwin still loves the challenge of farming and trying to improve the ground.