Burchell & Fred Hopkin
Elizabeth Wilson, Burchell’s mother, arrived in Byron on July 4th, 1901 by wagon with her mother and father, Isaac “Ike” and Elizabeth. Burchell’s father, Fred Hopkin, arrived January 1st, 1902 with his younger brother, Elmer and their parents, John and Mary. John brought the family to Garland to find coal from Morgan County, Utah. He managed coal mines for the railroads in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. He developed a mine four miles north of Garland and later opened the Pine Bluff mine. Polygamists, his two other wives lived in Otto and Burlington, WY, so business savvy Mary opened a hotel in Garland for wagoneers and wagon train operators. At that time, Garland was bustling and known as the “gate city,” for it’s access to the Big Horn Basin. She ran her hotel until 1908 when the railroad continued south and the wagoneers no longer came through as frequently. Around the same time she homesteaded in Penrose on the land still farmed by the Hopkin family today.
Fred and Elizabeth, Burchell’s parents, married in June 1912 and raised six children. Fred branched out from his mother’s homestead in Penrose and acquired more land around the area to farm. Burchell was next to the youngest of his brothers and sisters. He and his brother Harold, “Whitey,” tagged along with each other to milk cows and separate the milk. After school, they’d complete their homework as quickly as possible in order to finish their chores before sunset. The times he spent irrigating with his father were special and instilled an appreciation and care for working with the land.
When he turned 18, he volunteered for the Army Air Corp, learned to fly and served two and a half years in WWII. On furlough in 1945, he met his future wife Ruby, and took her on a date to the movies. In April 1946, he rented the farm from his father whose health and interest in ranching had lessened his involvement in the day-to-day activities. After a relatively unproductive year, he went on a 2-year LDS mission to England. Upon his return, Burchell and Ruby were married. That year, they left the farm and went to BYU for Burchell to study journalism. The connection to the land drew him back and after a year, they returned for good.
Until that point, Burchell’s brothers farmed together, including Mary’s Penrose homestead. Over the years, other interests pulled their attention away from the farm and opened the door for Burchell to take over. Whitey pursued cowboying and Burchell’s older brother, Fred, invested more time into the dairy. With the help of Ruby’s cooking, they built up the farm from 80 acres to 3000 and raised six children together. Since 1955, he has been a member of the Elk Water User Association of Penrose, served on the Rocky Mountain Manor board and for the past 15 years served on the Board of Directors of the Homesteader Museum.
Their son Fred presently manages the operation and remembers the defining moment that made him want to farm. He was a sophomore in high school when Burchell put him on the tractor to plant corn. Afterwards, Burchell bragged about how straight he’d planted the rows. This instilled a confidence and peaked interest that Fred retained over the years when he was away from the farm. He went to Northwest for a year, and then worked on the farm for a year. Fred then travelled to Central America–Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua– on an LDS mission. Afterwards he graduated with a degree in finance from BYU where he also met his future wife, Carrie. They were married in December 1984 and dismissed their intentions to go to graduate school in order to remain on the farm.
Fred officially took over the operation in 1991. Alfalfa seed is their main crop in addition to beets, barley, beans, sunflower seed, and mustard seed. He farms 3500 acres and has a loyal, full-time crew of 7-13 employees depending on the time of year; most of whom have worked for him for over ten years. With his father, he is a member of the Elk Water User Association of Penrose, served on the Powell Valley Healthcare board for eight years, and the Northwest College Foundation board for six. He was the President of the Wyoming Alfalfa Seed Growers Association for eight years, for ten years he’s served on the Big Horn Basin Beet Growers Association and four as the Vice Chair of Western Sugar Research Committee. He is the fourth generation to farm in the Hopkin family.