Farm Horizons, May 1998

Horsches honored as Wright Co. farm family of the year


Honored as Wright County's Farm Family of the Year March 19, Marlys and Burton Horsch of Howard Lake recalled their start in farming, and as a family.

"We detasseled corn to pay for our wedding pictures," Burton said.

This Wright County Farm Family of the Year began their odyssey "about Oct. 6, 1951," said Burton.

He met Marlys at the Cokato Roller Dome, and they continued to see each other there on Saturday nights for awhile.

Burton said, "We had our first date Nov. 16."

Marlys said, If you didn't go roller skating at the roller dome on Saturday nights, you weren't living. I practically lived there."

"You could rent skates and skate for three hours for 50 cents," she said.

"Mary Harkman of Cokato played the organ for hundreds of skaters, and she could really make that place bounce," Marlys said.

Marlys and Burton were born in the area. Burton grew up north of Howard Lake.

Marlys was born in French Lake Township, moved to Minneapolis when she was six, but came back to graduate from Cokato High School.

Two days after graduation, Burton said Ed Zander asked him to work on his farm.

Burton continued to work for neighbors until he rented his first 150-acre farm in 1954 at what is now known as Keats Ave. and 50th St.

He worked about 100 acres of crop land and milked 16 to 18 cows at first.

A Ferguson tractor, purchased for $300, and a two-bottom plow were his first equipment purchases.

"Herb Gruenhagen loaned me money, and Al Westphal helped me get started. I didn't have to go to a bank," he said.

In those days, farmers loaned each other money, and there are still a few who do, he said.

Money didn't seem to be such a big problem back then, said Burton.

After Burton had established a place for them to live, Burton and Marlys were married in 1955.

"Our first problem came when we put in our first garden," said Marlys.

Burton came from a family of eight kids. As they set out two dozen tomato plants, Marlys thought it was a bit too much.

"But I didn't know. All I'd ever done was pull weeds," she said.

Burton told her this was how much his mom planted.

They gave away garden produce to everyone they knew that year. It was too much, said Marlys.

Eight years they rented that farm, and then they bought the one south of Highway 12 on Wright Co. Rd. 5.

That is where they have stayed for the last 35 years, raising their two children, Amy and Aaron.

Moving was quite an experience, said Burton. Moving cows and hay wasn't easy.

Family and friends have always helped with work time from the beginning, he said, and this was no different.

"Otis Brose helped load one big load of hay. Maybe it was too big - we took out quite a few telephone wires along the way," he said.

Marlys said, "The next time I move, they will carry me out in a box."

So, they moved into this big, old, five-bedroom farmhouse, and Marlys said it cost $100 to paint, wallpaper, and put down linoleum.

"I thought that was outrageously expensive," she said.

Another adventure in their lives came when they built the new house.

They could use the same septic system and well, but it meant building the new home in the same spot as the old one.

So their answer was to saw the old house in half, and live in one half while the other was torn off.

The new house was built right against the old one, and the carpenters weren't too happy.

They had to put in the front door of the new house, but couldn't open it up once it was in place.

Mosquitoes plagued us that year, because things weren't closed up very well, she said.

Marlys loves to drive the tractors, and still does that. She used to do all the hay cutting and baling, in addition to chopping silage.

Burton said he would be waiting and waiting for her to show up and help with the milking.

He would finally go to the field, and there she would be with the lights on, still cutting hay.

"It was always more than I wanted cut at one time," he said.

They still recall an April night, 10 years ago, when people driving by the farm alerted them to a fire in their dairy barn.

"It was still cold, so most of the cows were in the barn. We lost all of them," said Burton.

The fire put an end to the dairying part of the operation, and the couple plants about 70 acres of corn and 70 acres of beans.

They have someone come in to harvest the crops, because the equipment is so expensive.

Though the machinery is changing, Burton said, "We can be thankful we have the technology and people like we do, or we'd be in a food crisis."

"If we still had 70-bushel corn, like when I started, we couldn't feed very many people," he said.

Vertical Rate Technology is one of the really useful tools available to the farmer, he said.

It takes 16 soil samples in a 40-acre piece of land and puts the information into a computer. Then, he said, the fertilizer or the planter can use that information to properly fertilize or plant each section of that 40 acres.

This goes along with the global positioning system that can be installed in farm equipment, said Burton.

Things were quite different when Burton grew up. His dad farmed with horses for many years.

The first technology he recalled was the first television set in Howard Lake, when he was in high school.

"Vince Greelis had one at the mortuary. If there wasn't a wake, the people in town would go there and watch the Lakers play the Celtics on black-and-white television," said Burton.

"I remember after senior class play practice, we went down there and peeked through the door," he said.

Nowadays, Burton has his own television, but has lots of other things to keep him busy. He is a substitute school bus driver for something to keep him active, now that the livestock don't take so much time.

He enjoys the afternoon routes in the winter, and likes to socialize with the other drivers.

"There is nothing so nice as going to a Friday night basketball game at the high school, or maybe taking the grandson to an Orphans baseball game in the summer," he said.

"I get to visit with friends and neighbors. I'm not tied down to a particular seat. If I see someone I want to speak with, I can just get up and move. It is great relaxation," said Burton.

Besides the fun things, Burton still serves on the boards for the Wright County Farm Bureau and C&H Ag Services.

He is also a supervisor for Victor Township.

In the past, he spent 12 years on the DHIA board and was district secretary for AMPI for eight years.

"I've always learned more from serving on these boards than I ever contributed," said Burton.

Marlys cares for two-year-old grandson Noah during the day, and still does some gardening.

She is a member of the Wright County Home Extension Group, the church guild and LWML.

Said Burton, "We really enjoyed the program at the University of Minnesota, where we were given the award. We met several former extension agents, old friends, lots of new people."

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