When Pigs Can Fly

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ATWATER – Pigs from Bob Lyme’s farm did fly.

One time, a piglet even escaped from its carrier, necessitating an emergency landing. When they got back in the air, Lyme says, the weather worsened – and so did the piglet situation.

“How that little rascal came back out we never found out,” Lyme recalls.

Lyme is a member of the Flying Farmers organization. Although he no longer is able to fly, he enjoys talking about how he used his plane in his farm operations in Greenville, Ohio.

For instance, whenever a local veterinarian couldn’t figure out what was wrong with his livestock, Lyme flew the animals to a lab run by Ohio State University’s agricultural department in Wooster. He knew he would be back on his farm within a few hours.

“I used to call it my second pick-up truck,” says Lyme.

“It’s not just a rich man’s toy, it’s an everyday man’s tool if you’ve got a use for it.”

Interests in farming and flying unite people across the world. What started as a national organization in 1944 became The International Flying Farmers in 1956. Members think of themselves as a family, and their memberships include wives, husbands and kids. When they host fly-ins during the warmer months, most bring children along.

At fly-ins, Don Leis, current vice president for the international organization, says the networking is very helpful. Meeting other farmers from across the country and seeing how they run their farms can help them solve problems at home and make their operations more successful. Also, the younger generations can form lasting friendships with other children and teens from all over.

“That’s what brings it all together, adults don’t just go off and leave the kids at home,” says Leis. “We put emphasis on the whole family coming and having a good time.”

Ohio has a Flying Farmers chapter with about a hundred members. They include James Gay, from Atwater, Ohio, where he owns a 160-acre grain farm. He has been involved in the organization for 50 years. At 83, he still flies.

Lyme joined in 1970, but became active in the 1980s when his children were older. He bought a plane with three of his buddies. He kept at it the longest.

“It [Flying] keeps you sharp,” he says.

Leis’s first plane was a 172 Cessna and later he used a 182 Cessna, a real workhorse, he says. Using that aircraft, he could haul 1,300 pounds.

Leis, who lives in southern Ohio, uses his planes to survey crops. He takes pictures of crops on his grain farm a few times during the growing season. He has also used his plane to fly out and get parts for his farm equipment when they cannot be found locally.

In addition to owning his farm that he now runs with his son, Leis is a real estate broker. On his farm they have a runway and hangar, which is standard for most flying farmers. The runway may just be mown grass in the middle of the field. His aircraft is a Beechcraft Bonanza.

Leis says most pilots in the chapter are private pilots, with a commercial or instrument rating. Leis got interested in flying when he was just a teenager. His uncle was a pilot, and when he completed high school he began taking lessons. His family joined the Flying Farmers in 1964. Today, he’s covered 49 states on the continent and flown to Alaska as well as down into South America.

“Each trip is memorable,” says Leis. “It’s a great experience. You see parts of the world you wouldn’t see any other way.”

– Erica Hamner is a photojournalism major at Kent State. She enjoys working on long term projects combining a variety of media formats.
“Working with the flying farmers on this piece has been enjoyable. I come from a farming community. Learning about aviation in connection the farming has been fascinating.”


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