Landowner Spotlight: Royal Johnson
In our landowner spotlight we celebrate Royal Johnson, a lifelong resident of Muscatine County. Royal, who turned 80 in October, was born after a long, hot summer west of Nichols, IA. In 1945, at the age of eight, he moved with his parents and one sister, Lucille, to his current residence of 72 years, southeast of West Liberty. It was there that Royal was raised and learned to farm from his parents, who were of Swedish descent. They came to Iowa from Kansas, after the dust bowl years, and purchased the original 120-acre farm in 1940.
In Royal’s youth he aided on the farm in many ways. Each day he would do bucket chores, shell corn for feed, and milk two cows in the morning and the evening. On Saturday mornings there were numerous chores to do. Every Saturday, rain or shine, they would scoop the hog floor, clean the calf pens and chicken coop, and do more bucket chores. At the age of eleven Royal began plowing the fields for his father. He attended grade school in the nearby one-room school house. He was sometimes allowed to go home at noon during the spring and fall harvest to work with his family.
Royal entered the Army after graduating from West Liberty High School in 1955. He served two years, one and a half of those years was in Germany as a surveyor for artillery. He returned home in 1957 and began farming his parents’ place.
Royal acquired the farm from his parents in 1965. Over the years he farmed other acreages around the area; 640 total acres at the height of his career. He lived by a motto he learned from his father, “You work hard and you pay your debts”. It was there that he raised his three children; Barbara, LeAnn and David. He left farming in 1986, during the farm crisis, to drive semi for Louis Rich. He enjoyed the over-the-road hauling job as he “saw a lot of places and met a lot of people”. He was a truck driver for ten years, retiring in 1997.
In 1995, Royal returned to farming; this is where his union with Danner Farms began. Royal knew Billie from the neighborhood and knew his family well. He hired Billie to do his soybean drilling each year. Billie was very dependable and got the job done in a timely manner. Royal retired from farming in 2011 and rented his farm to Billie. He enjoys working with Danner Farms because Billie is easy to get along with and he feels he is treated with respect.
The things Royal misses the most about farming are doing various kinds of field work, combining corn, and the farming friends and neighbors. He has seen great changes in agriculture, such as real horse power to tractors, electricity, the grand size of the combine, and the “phenomenal technology”. Farming has changed tremendously in his time.
While he may be retired; Royal is still very active. He and his wife, Judy, whom he married in 1994, keep busy working in his shop, traveling, collecting and reading. Together they have six children, twelve grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He has 13 collector tractors. He takes some to the Midwest Old Threshers in Mount Pleasant, some he parades around the local community, and some are a work in progress.
We would like to thank Royal for his years of service in the military, as well as his years of partnering with Danner Farms. We appreciate his dedication and the hard work he has provided in the field of agriculture.