Terning family of Cokato recognized as a Century Farm
By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Currently in its third generation of farming, the Terning family farm was recognized this year as a Century Farm, an award given to farm families who have been actively engaged in production agriculture for at least 100 years.
Currently owned by Dennis and Dean Terning, the family tradition began when Gustof and Frederika Terning first purchased 80 acres of farm in section 4 of Stockholm Township.
In 1911, their son, Carl Terning purchased the farmland and built a dairy barn.
The following year, he married Anna Nevala and they built the house that stands there today, as they began actively farming.
Ralph and Doris then bought the house and farm in 1952, and were strictly in dairy and crops until 1976, when Ralph built a seed processing plant. The family then raised mainly certified oats, wheat, and soybeans.
In 1985, their son Dennis returned from college, where he studied crop production, and began running the business full time. That was also when the production of hybrid seed corn was added, Dennis noted.
In 1987, the family decided to go out of the dairy business during the federal government buyout of dairies “which gave us more time to focus on the seed business and crop farming,” Dennis said.
Today, their customers span from a quarter-mile to as far away as Japan, Italy, and France.
With the combination of seed and grain fields, Dennis estimates they have a total of 4,000 acres.
They employ nine full-time employees year-round and during the harvest season, Dennis said that number goes up to 46.
The Ternings have seen many changes in the agriculture industry in the last century.
In the early years, their fields were plowed with a horse-drawn one-bottom plow. In 1917, the family added their first-ever tractor, which was a steel-wheeled, 20 horsepower Fordson with a two-bottom Oliver plow.
Today, their field work is done with tractors exceeding 500 horsepower.
“With today’s technology and farm implements, we can cover more ground in one hour than our grandfather could do in a full day,” Dean said.