By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN From frozen fields to ripe ears of corn, Howard Lake farming is a way of life that changes with the years and the seasons.
In rural Howard Lake, the Montgomery farm and the Stueven farm were both recognized as 2010 Century Farms by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
When Martin and Amelia Stueven left their homeland in Germany in the late 1800s, they settled on 30th Street SW in Middleville Township, north of Howard Lake. Martin purchased his first 40 acres of land in 1897 a woodsy area that he cleared by hand.
The southern 40 acres was purchased in 1902, and is now in a Stueven family trust.
Martin and Amelia’s daughter-in-law, Edna, still owns the 40 acres of land to the north.
Martin was 50 years old when he married Amelia, a 20-year-old hired hand.
“They fell in love, and the 30 years didn’t seem to make a difference,” said Marge, who is married to Edna’s son, Michael.
Martin lived until he was 92, and the couple had 13 children, two of which are still alive. Helen McRoberts, 95, resides in the Howard Lake nursing home, and Milla Dorma, 93, is at an assisted living facility in Annandale.
One of their children was Adolf, Edna’s late husband.
“We met at a Fourth of July celebration in Delano,” said Edna, who grew up in Buffalo.
If Adolf were still alive, this year would be their 70th anniversary.
She and Adolf had five children Norma, Michael, Gary, Brian, and Jason.
Michael and Marge got married in 1974, and they sold the cows when Adolf retired in 1975. About a year later, Brian joined them on the family farm, where they grew corn and soybeans.
Michael and Marge enjoyed raising their five children, Mark, John, Joy, Dawn, and Beth, on the farm. Brian’s children, Adam, Aaron, and Casey, also spent time helping out. All four of their sons are still involved, helping with fieldwork in the spring and fall.
The Stuevens own several more acres of land in addition to the family farm, and they also rent land from several neighbors in the area.
One of their neighbors, Harlan Horsch, has assisted with fieldwork for the past 10 years.
Farming is a lot different than when Edna and Adolf ran the property.
“It was a lot of work, at first,” Edna said. “We had to feed thrashers and all that. They came for breakfast, then lunch in the afternoon, and then again for supper.”
The food was always fresh and homemade, and they even butchered their own chickens.
Technology advancements steadily increased the speed of farming, and the first tractor they purchased was an Allis Chalmers C from the early 1940s.
“My husband was the first one to buy a combine around here,” Edna added.
Crop-selling techniques have also changed.
“You can manage your risks so much better now,” Michael said, adding that there is also more record-keeping now.
“You’re constantly purchasing and researching,” he said. “It’s a lot more watching and working with people.”
During the winter, Michael and Brian spend a great deal of time marketing, buying, and attending meetings.
The longest days are in the fall, but that’s also a favorite time of year.
“I like the corn harvest,” Brian said.
“Same here,” Michael agreed. “I like to see the bushels going out.”
Adolf’s favorite time of year was plowing season.
“He liked to see everything black,” Michael said.
“My favorite is the color change seeing the fields go from green to golden to black, and back to green again,” Marge said. “I like taking tours of the fields to look at the rows and colors.”
Alan and Viann Montgomery love living on their 80-acre property on Keats Avenue SW, south of Howard Lake.
“It’s nice to have it,” said Alan, who rents the land out to nearby farmers.
Alan’s great-grandfather, William, purchased the farm in 1894. William’s son, Thomas Arthur “Art,” became the owner in about 1907.
From there it went to Alan’s father, Howard, who purchased the property around 1953, and Alan bought it about 20 years later.
For the first year-and-a-half of their marriage, Alan and Viann lived in town, and although they enjoyed it, they are thankful for the privacy and spaciousness of country living.
“It’s a nice place to raise a family,” Alan said. Their children are now grown up, and include Matthew, Mitchell, Mindy Shulfer, and Marey Woolhouse. They also have seven grandchildren.
After Alan and Viann purchased the Montgomery family farm, Alan tried farming for a while, plus working a different full-time job during the day.
However, 80 acres wasn’t enough to farm full-time, and it got to be too difficult to do both jobs.
“The equipment I had was old and in bad shape,” he explained, and he didn’t have enough land to justify the purchase of new machinery.
Renting the land to neighbors has worked out wonderfully, however.
Alan works from home, publishing a direct-mail advertising magazine in the Hutchinson area every six weeks. Viann is the secretary at St. James Lutheran School in Howard Lake.
When they get home from work, the Montgomerys enjoy spending time outside in their vegetable and flower garden.
Viann plants about 100 hills of potatoes each year, in order to supply her children and grandchildren with garden-fresh food.
“She’s still a farm girl at heart,” Alan said. “That’s her getaway.”
Viann grew up about five miles north of Howard Lake, and both she and Alan went to school together in Howard Lake.
“We knew each other since first grade,” Alan said.
Alan’s father, Howard, who was born in 1912, also married a girl close to home.
“Those days, people didn’t travel far to find a wife,” Alan said. Neighbors were closer and worked together more, he added.
Howard’s cousin, Elmer, was one of the people who lived nearby and often helped on the farm.
“They were more like brothers,” Alan said. “It was very unusual if one of them wasn’t at the other one’s place helping out.”
At first, Alan’s parents had a dairy farm but they sold the cows in 1958.
After that, they raised a few hogs, and also did crop farming.
“I enjoyed farm work as a kid,” Alan said. “I remember looking forward to corn picking in the fall.”
Alan’s family also had a small apple orchard, as well as geese, chickens, and ducks.
“You were pretty self-sufficient,” he said. “Those were different times.”