BY STARRLA CRAY
DASSEL, MN Although small family farms are fading from the local landscape, Lyndon Jr. “Sonny” Nelson and his wife, Eunice “Nony,” remember when agriculture was a common way of life.
“When I was younger, we had chickens, pigs, and of course, cows,” Sonny said. “The egg money went to buy groceries, and the pigs helped pay the mortgage on the farm.”
Sonny’s grandparents, Oscar and Victoria Nelson, were the first owners, purchasing the property between Dassel and Cokato in 1912. This year, the 330-acre farm was recognized by the Minnesota Farm Bureau for more than 100 years of continuous family ownership.
As a Century Farm family, the Nelsons received a commemorative sign, as well as a certificate signed by representatives of the farm bureau, the Minnesota State Fair, and Governor Mark Dayton.
Sunny Acres history
Sonny’s grandfather, Oscar, was the official owner of the farm (known as Sunny Acres) until he passed away in 1971. After that, Sonny’s father, Lyndon, assumed ownership.
Sonny began helping with farm work at an early age, and continued his involvement after high school graduation in 1962. While farming, he was also employed at Holt Motors in Cokato for a number of years.
Nony and Sonny have lived at Sunny Acres since they got married in 1972.
“I grew up mostly in Iowa,” Nony said. “I was a preacher’s kid.”
Nony moved to Dassel after her first husband died in a plane crash. She had two young daughters at the time ages 6 weeks and 2 years and wanted to be closer to aunts and uncles who lived in the area.
Later on, Nony was introduced to Sonny through a mutual friend.
Despite not growing up on a farm, Nony and the girls quickly adapted.
“We all helped out,” Nony said. “Farming teaches responsibility and hard work.”
Sonny and Nony took ownership of the land in 1995, after Lyndon passed away. They milked about 45 cows until the late 1990s, and continued crop farming until the 2000s.
Today, their daughters are married and have moved away, and the rich farmland is rented out.
Changing with the times
Agriculture has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, and Sonny commented that “everything I learned and grew up with is totally out of the picture now.”
He remembers the last year his family shocked their corn, when he was about 5 years old.
“I got to bring the bundles over,” he recalled.
Later on, small combines were used.
“The last [combine] I had, you could easily fit inside these new ones,” he said, noting that it’s interesting to watch how fast fields can be harvested now.
Even though he’s retired, Sonny still has a farm mindset. He keeps an eye on the crops, and noted that yields look good so far this year.
“This area was blessed with the right amount of sunshine and rain,” he said.
Other 2015 Century Farms
The Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau recognized 221 Minnesota farms as 2015 Century Farms. Qualifying farms have been in continuous family ownership for at least 100 years and are 50 acres or more.
A few other nearby 2015 Century Farms include:
• Dassel Heenan O’Fallon, est.1902 (Story was in a previous issue of the Enterprise Dispatch.)
• Dassel O’Fallon Farm, est. 1901 (Story was in a previous issue of the Enterprise Dispatch.)
• Brownton Darrel Radke Family Trust, est. 1915
• Brownton Rennecke Farms, est.1914
• Glencoe Anderle Farm, est. 1867
• Glencoe John Kucera Jr., est. 1874
• Hutchinson Melin Farms, est. 1905
• Plato John H. Moehring Farm, est. 1914
• Buffalo The Piram Family Farm, est. 1915
• Cokato Nordlund Farm, est. 1889
• Elk River Beaudry Farms, est. 1911