Gooden’s lived a full life while holding down farm
By CAROL KINSLEY
WOODSIDE, Del. (April 18, 2017) — “It’s been a good, crazy life,” said Mary Bea Gooden, although, barring unforeseen circumstances, she plans to go on living that life just as hard, crazy though it may be.
“I’m far from being done,” she added. “I’ll probably still be going, with my kids trying to keep me from the tractor, when I’m 80.
“Mom and Dad were ‘goers.’ Mom’s mom was a goer. It’s in our blood,” she said. And she herself has been going strong since she was a child.
Her parents, Olin and Bea Gooden, started farming in Woodside and purchased the next farm up.
Gooden, who took back her maiden name after a divorce, takes care of one farm; her brother farms the other.
“Mom was secretary to the head of education; she quit when she got pregnant, then helped Dad on the farm. We had nary a penny to pinch between our fingers growing up, but we made it,” Gooden recalled her mother saying.
Her mother often told the story of when Hurricane Hazel came through in October of 1954. “The farm I live on had a 30-acre field on the east side of the house. It was planted in corn which was almost ready to pick. After the storm came through, all 30 acres of corn was lying on the ground. My parents picked it up by bushel baskets,” Gooden said.
Gooden recalls times way back when her mother would take her along when she drove empty grain wagons to her father while he was combining. They would take him lunch.
“Dad would get off the combine. In the back of the truck was a 50-gallon diesel fuel tank. While Dad ate lunch, I would crank fuel into the combine. I was barely big enough to crank. When he finished his lunch, he’d crank the rest. Then we’d leave two empty wagons and hitch two full ones to the truck to drive back. We’d take them to the grain bin and unload them. Those are good memories,” she said. “When you start early, kids learn early. If you teach them while they are young, it’s in their blood.”
She was in 4-H when she was young, a member of the Woodside Emerald 4-H Club. “I can sew very well,” she said. “I did a lot of sewing. I won a lot of contests. I sewed my own wedding dress, and I’ve made all the dresses for three other wedding parties.
“But I’ve accomplished that. It’s no longer a challenge. I go on to something else.”
She moved on to deer hunting. Every day of the season she got a deer. Her dad eventually told her, “You need to do something else.” So she got a bow. She still hunts.
In her high school junior and senior year, Gooden was in Who’s Who among American High School Students. Later she was in Who’s Who among Agriculture for her area.
She played five sports in high school: field hockey, basketball, track, tennis and softball. For many years she was captain of the softball and hockey teams. She was all-conference hockey player. “I had a blown-out knee in high school, but I still played,” she said.
With so many sports and membership in activities such as the Latin Club, she earned enough points to get a school letter.
She was president of the FFA, then Future Farmers of America, in her sophomore and junior years. Then she had to let go of all the clubs she was in so she could be student council president of the whole school her senior year. She was a state FFA officer for two years. She appreciates the opportunities FFA offered for leadership.
She raised peppers for money in high school. The “going” continued after high school. Gooden explained, “I just have a constant list to see what can I get into next. It makes life fun. I like helping other people.”
Gooden definitely takes after her father, whom she called “Mr. Farm Bureau.” Olin was president of the Kent County Farm Bureau; Bea was secretary/treasurer, as well as Delaware Farm Bureau Women’s Committee chairwoman at one time, and State Women’s chairwoman in Grange. In high school, Olin had been captain of the football team; Bea had played basketball and was second in her class.
“Dad was one of three or four people who started the Mid-Atlantic Soybean Association. He started the Caesar Rodney Ruritan. He was on the conservation committee. The list goes on and on,” Gooden said. “Mom was trustee of Woodside United Methodist for years. We were big in church,” she added.
Gooden herself is Kent County Farm Bureau director, State Board director, Executive Board director and state Women’s Committee chairperson. “Farm Bureau has been my life and Mom and Dad’s life forever,” she said.
She went to her first Women’s Committee meeting after being named chairperson directly after a day on a tractor, still full of grease, she admitted. Some of the ladies were surprised.
She likes going to Farm Bureau conferences and conventions. “I like learning about new technology and I enjoy advocating for agriculture.”
There have been a variety of animals on Gooden’s farm. “We had cows when I was married. For a while, I helped other farmers milk cows and did machinery work, working ground.
“I got rid of the milk cows, but we had always had them. When the kids were little and could handle a calf, I bought three little Hereford calves. The kids and I raised them with the kids showing them at the fair. When the calves got big, I had a friend with bulls and we ended up with more calves, and showed them. We took the mama and her calf to the fair.
“We also had dairy cows, sheep, hogs and horses at the fair. Back when the old barns were there, we slept in the barns. In the years when the kids were little, I did the clipping.”
She found herself raising three children almost single-handedly. “Thank God for Mom and Dad,” she said.
Gooden had a custom round hay baling business. She baled and wrapped the bales in plastic to look like white marshmallows, serving a 30-mile radius from her home. The children were older then, into things like Little League, and her mother was still alive.
Her mom was gone, however, when she was involved in the first of two bad accidents. Healing took a long time and therapy was difficult, but “you laugh out loud and you go on,” Gooden said. “I taught my kids by being a model: work, rehab, and go on. Every day is a new day. Always work. It’s fun.
“I love to work. A lot of people don’t like working, but I do.”
Gooden was back in the fields before she was fully healed. She couldn’t shift gears because of an injured shoulder, so her son David drove the tractor. “I just rode with him to be out on the grounds, away from four walls,” she said.
“Every day I get up is a blessing. I see my three kids and my grandson. I do what I like to do: agriculture. The best thing is to be out on the tractor farming the ground.”
Her father told her once, “Don’t you follow. You lead. Get up and go. Drive yourself to go.” She does.
Her children help with farming. “I can do it, but they’re old enough.
“David is 35. He loves to plant, so I let him plant. I have machinery and he has machinery. We share.”
She still makes hay, about 600 round bales from 60 acres. She also grows soybeans and has grown corn but finds the inputs expensive and the prices not good. She is going to try grain sorghum.
“Last year it rained so much my hay — alfalfa orchardgrass — hadn’t been harvested. It kept raining. I was watching the weather hourly. I saw three dry days coming. I told David, ‘Get hitched to your discbine. We’re cutting.’”
Her youngest child, Douglas Olin Sherwood, helped her hitch her discbine and they got the crop in.
Her daughter, Karen, is the oldest. She has a full-time job but “she’s my hunting and fishing buddy,” Gooden said. “She has a jon boat. We fish between hay seasons. We are fishing unless we are watching Braxton.”
Braxton is her 5-month-old grandson, son of David and Wendy Sherwood. David leases three poultry houses, raises cattle, crops and hay, and hauls livestock and machinery for people.
Doug works at a butcher shop, cutting meat and waiting on customers.
Doug is also into show horses — quarter horses, appaloosas and minis. He has national world champions among his minis. “He is well-known for showmanship,” Gooden said. “He’s the man to beat when competing in horses.”
Gooden and her son haul minis everywhere — to shows in New York, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. They help haul to Texas and Oklahoma with the trucks and trailers of a trainer of miniature horses. “She’s absolutely a good trainer,” Gooden said. “She shows minis at regional, national and world shows.”
As for their own minis, yes, one has been picked out for Braxton.
Gooden is president of the Eastern Shore Western Horse Show Association, a position she has held for two years.