Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Jan. 28, 2002

Wheat and cheese were big in 1880

By Don Danford
Howard Lake Historical Society

The year was around 1880 and the area of and around Howard Lake was getting a reputation for very good wheat farms. There was also a new cheese factory in the works.

Being one of the first wheat stations along the Great Northern Railroad, the reputation was not necessarily due to the amount of acreage that was here, but for the amount of wheat per acre.

The average yield per acre for Victor and Middleville townships was at 25 bushels per acre this season. Some of the fields in the area in 1880 were noted to have 30 or even 40 bushels per acre.

Dairying and stock raising were also prominent in the area at the time. Illustration of the prosperity in the area was proven by the local tax collector, who on one round of five or six towns in the area, Howard Lake was by far the largest contributor for the season, beating the other communities hands down.

Also around this time there was a cheese factory opened in the area (Sonstegard's Foods) by proprietors Messer Armstrong and Chas Tompkins, whom had moved here from Canada. The factory was to have the latest equipment, some patented as late as April 1790.

Tompkins, the cheese expert of the two, held a foreman position in a large cheese factory in Canada for eight years. They started out with the milk from 400 cows, done on a co-operative basis.

The farmers would have the cheese factory make the milk into cheese and butter for the farmer to sell on his own. It was a much better deal for the farmer, because he almost doubled his money this way.

As opposed to selling the milk to a factory and letting them sell the cheese and butter. With this way of doing business the cheese factory was around for a long time and was supplied with more milk than it could handle.

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