70 and counting: Joe Kirchdoerfer marks 70 years as SEMO District Fair exhibitor

Joe Kirchdoerfer watches as family members show jersey cattle during the 2019 SEMO District Fair on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, at Arena Park in Cape Girardeau. This year marks 70 years that Kirchdoerfer has been an exhibitor of jersey cattle at the fair.

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.

Joe Kirchdoerfer stands next to his family's jersey cattle before they are shown in Monday's competition at the 2019 SEMO District Fair at Arena Park in Cape Girardeau. This year marks 70 years that Kirchdoerfer has been an exhibitor of jersey cattle at the fair.

"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.

Tyler Kirchdoerfer, Joe's grandson, washes a jersey cow Monday during the fair.

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.

Joe's son Carl Kirchdoerfer, right, and Evelyn Roedl of Edgewood, Illinois, left, let cows get a drink Monday before a showing at the fair.

"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.

Joe's son Eddie Kirchdoerfer shows a jersey cow Monday in competition at the fair.
Joe's son Eddie Kirchdoerfer takes jersey cattle back to a their tent Monday after showing in competition.
Jacob Wiegand
Images of Joe Kirchdoerfer through the years are seen on display Monday at the fair.
Jacob Wiegand ~ jwiegand@semissourian.com
Siblings from left: Adella Frank, Joe Kirchdoerfer and Marie James get ready to have photos taken as Kirchdoerfer's niece Liz Aufdenberg, standing, helps them get ready for photos Monday at the fair.
Jacob Wiegand
Mildred Kirchdoerfer speaks about her husband Joe, left, to a group gathered for a meal after the jersey cattle showing Monday at the fair.
Jacob Wiegand