Name: Oscar “Hank” Will III
Place of Residence: Near Topeka, Kan.
Will started his career in agriculture while working toward advanced scientific degrees in Chicago. Inspired by an article he saw in Mother Earth News, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hank grew and sold several hundred pounds of alfalfa sprouts weekly to individuals, stores and food-buying co-ops from his south-side apartment. Hank was also a partner in a small food-purchasing and trucking company that served neighborhood co-ops, several coffee shops and restaurants in the Hyde Park area.
Several years after leaving Chicago, Will put his rural Harrisburg, S.D., farm to work with four acres of native perennials, a nursery containing thousands of trees and shrubs, cut flower gardens, berries, rhubarb and meadow hay. Will marketed the bulk of his production through the Downtown Sioux Falls Farmers Market. During his final years in South Dakota, he co-chaired that entire enterprise.
Will also grew and direct marketed several thousand free-range broilers annually from that South Dakota location. His substantial laying flock supplied the Banquet and other local food charities with hundreds of dozens of donated eggs year round and another of his poultry projects supplied hundreds of pounds of donated free-range turkey to the Banquet and Sioux Falls Food Pantry during the holiday season.
Row crops have never been part of Will’s farming model but he has experience with managing hay ground, marketing hay and managing his own purebred Angus herd (in Ohio) consisting of about 150 head in an average year. He was also involved with native prairie restoration projects in Ohio and native prairie management in South Dakota.
Will currently pastures Mulefoot hogs and Highland cattle, keeps a flock of chickens and turkeys, and grows a large food garden on his Osage County, Kans., farm.
Will is an experienced grazier with a passion for low stress, intensive management of animals, pastures and hay meadows. He is a firm believer in improving soils and the pasture matrix by carefully timing the frequency and duration of animal grazing. Will’s Ohio cattle farm was recognized for exemplary herd and forage management, and clean water. The farm was on the Heart of Ohio Tour in the late 1990s.
Hank Will has an unending love of most things mechanical. He is the author of three books and hundreds of magazine articles on the birth, care and feeding of vintage machinery. His books include Payline: International Harvester’s Construction Equipment Division, Cub Cadet: the first 45 Years and the Farmall Regular and F-Series Collector’s Originality Guide. He is especially fond of 1970s vintage single-cylinder Kohler engines (because they were built to be used hard and then rebuilt), Cub Cadet garden tractors (because they were designed by IH and he always wanted one as a kid) and International Harvester equipment of all kinds (because the earthmovers he watched on a highway construction project as a kid were IH Payscrapers and Payhaulers). With rare exceptions, Will’s agricultural operations rely on decent used equipment that he picks up cheap and keeps alive.
Will was born in Bismarck, N.D., where his family operated a seed company and nursery founded by his great-grandfather and namesake in the early 1880s.
A.B. The University of Chicago 1978: biology major
S.M. The University of Chicago 1980: plant physiology
Ph.D. The University of Chicago 1983: plant biochemistry and molecular biology
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