Farming is his life

Lowell Clifford walks out of his barn while talking to his cat, Skinny, as the other barn cat, Fatty, watches from his perch inside. Lowell bought his farm in 1971. Now an 83-year-old widower, he is trying to care for it alone.

One-by-one, Lowell Clifford moves buckets, pouring cattle feed into each one as a cloud of dust fills the air. With a soft grunt, he slowly leans down. Earlier in life, he says, he would have filled them to the brim rather than halfway. But at age 83, he has lost strength and speed.

Despite losing his wife, Mary Sue, Lowell has kept his farm going.  He works from early morning to past sunset.

"Most old farmers would go somewhere to be taken care of," Lowell says, smiling. "I've got more than I can do."

Running a farm is not a one-man job, says Mark Clifford, Lowell's eldest son. Mark and his brother, Keith, have pitched in at times. Their mother's father was a tobacco farmer, and they would help out when visiting for vacation. But they have their own children and grandchildren, and working on the farm isn't always possible. 

Lowell and Mary Sue met as teenagers in a cow field in Cynthiana, where they were neighbors.  They were married for 57 years before she passed away from ovarian cancer six years ago. After Lowell's time in the Air Force toward the end of the Korean War, they returned to Kentucky from his base in Texas. They moved home in 1971 with their two sons. Lowell got the farm he wanted.

Lowell says there is no clear future for the Clifford farm. He isn't planning to give up his passion until he has to. He is content waking up to the work farming demands. There are 400 acres to care for. The calves need to be fed.  His two barn cats, Skinny and Fatty, greet him with the same exuberance he gives them.

"He could very easily die on this farm," Mark says. "In his mind, I don't think anything better could happen to him."

Portraits of Lowell's late wife, Mary Sue, sit on the mantel behind him as he speaks to a nurse from the VA hospital about his low blood pressue concerns. He sends the nurse his results almost daily. "Most people have high blood pressure," Lowell says. "I got the low one."
Lowell works to remove his wet coveralls after tending to his calves during a rainstorm. "He had a hay bale fall onto him a few years back," his son Mark says. "It messed up his shoulder real bad."
Lowell lifts his cat Skinny early in the morning before going out to run errands. "She loves the attention," Lowell says.
Lowell smiles as he chats with Buddy Switzer and his daughter-in-law, Sadie Yarber, at Biancke's Restaurant during breakfast.
Lowell Clifford pours feed for his calves into troughs during a rain storm on his farm in Cynthiana. At 83-years-old, Lowell alone feeds the young herd of about 70 Black Angus and Smokey mix breed calves, morning and night.
Lowell puts his hands into his coverall pockets as he watches rain blanket his farm. After decades of farming, Lowell says it gets harder and harder to keep up with the work.
Lowell leans over to pick up a bucket before preparing to feed his calves.
Raindrops fall from Lowell's cap after returning from feeding calves in the rain.
Lowell pets the store cat as he walks through Van Hook Hardware in downtown Cynthiana.