Saturday, September 14, 2019 ~ Updated 6:10 PM
Joe Kirchdoerfer was 14 when he started showing jersey cattle at the SEMO District Fair, but that was 70 years ago.
The dairy farmer now boasts seven decades as a jersey cattle exhibitor at the annual fair.
In 1949, he and sister, Marie James, showed their jersey cattle for the first time. Kirchdoerfer continued into his adult life and said he hasn't missed a year at the fair since.
"My dad went and bought us, me and my sister, three little jersey heifers," Kirchdoerfer said recalling back to his early days at the fair.
He said his grandfather started their family's Cape Girardeau County farm back in 1895 where family members have lived ever since.
"I was born and raised right there," he said.
Kirchdoerfer eventually met his wife of 59 years and counting, Mildred, and had four children. Their sons, Carl and Eddie Kirchdoerfer, now run the farm with their parents.
"When you win your first blue ribbon, you just kinda get the urge to keep coming back," Mildred said of her husband.
For the Kirchdoerfers, farming is very much a family affair.
"It takes a family to make it go or it won't happen. Cause when they're out showing or something, somebody's got to be back home getting the next group of cows ready to go or milking," Carl said.
Joe is referred to as "Pop" by his grandchildren, at least two of whom, brothers Tyler and Clayton Kirchdoerfer, are regular workers on the farm.
Julie Eftink, one of Joe and Mildred's daughters, said she couldn't be more proud of her father.
"Mom always said she milked cows to pay for our college," Eftink said. "Mom and Dad, that was their dream to put all of us through college."
She said all four Joe and Mildred's children now have college degrees.
Glenda Hampton, Joe and Mildred's other daughter, said she showed when she was in 4-H, but eventually left the family farm and pursued her own career.
"I think it's unique in this day and age to see somebody stay with something for 70 years straight. I'm in complete admiration," Hampton said of her father.
On Monday, after the Kirchdoerfers' jersey cattle had been shown for judging in this year's fair. Joe's children, other family and friends gathered for a meal under the yellow and white tent next to the tawny jersey cows.
Carl said his father has gotten to know many people over the years including people met during 30 consecutive years of attending the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia.
"The cows change every day, but the people stay the same," he said.