Farm Horizons, May 2001

Boehlke farm reaches century and a quarter

By Matt Kane, Reprinted as a special with permission from the Dairy Star

As many Minnesota dairy farms have been forced to sell out in recent years, the Boehlke farm, just outside of Waverly, has managed to survive through some rough and seemingly unlucky circumstances.

Today Eugene, Rita (Hertzog) and their three children, Brittani, 16, Bridget, 12, and Eugene, 9, live and work on the farm. In 2001, the farm was recognized as a Minnesota Century Farm.

The land that the farm rests on was originally owned by the Pacific Railroad Company until they sold it to Chauncy Griggs.

In 1875, Eugene's great-grandfather, Ludwig Boehlke, purchased the farm from Griggs and later sold it to his son, Frederick, in 1897. The farm continued down the family tree when Frederick passed it on to his son, Edward, in 1941, and when Edward's widow, Anna, sold it to Eugene in 1993.

In its 125 years, the Boehlke farm has seen some amazing things, some good and some not so enjoyable.

In 1942, before the farm had electricity, it survived its first loss. As Edward was working in one of the sheds, his lantern tipped and set the shed ablaze. Edward was unharmed, but the shed was a total loss.

The second misfortune the Boehlke farm faced came in 1952. This time the outcome was almost fatal. As Edward was milking cows in the barn, a loud thundering sound was racing nearer. The sound was a tornado, which completely flattened the barn with Edward still inside.

"He was trapped inside, but he dug his way out and crawled to the house past downed power lines," Eugene explained.

"We drove a tractor to the neighbors," Edward's wife, Anna, recalls. "They didn't even know anything had happened."

Edward managed to survive the tornado with a few broken ribs and a destroyed farm. The herd of 16 cows Edward was milking also perished in the tornado.

"I thought a train was coming through," explained Anna. "It took everything but the house."

The Boehlkes rebuilt the barn, and Eugene has since added a free-standing barn and installed a double-6 parlor. The parlor has cut Eugene's milking time down from five hours to two for his 80-cow herd.

Eugene says the only major setback he, himself, has had to face so far was losing cows to cold weather.

Besides milking, the Boehlke farm has also been the site of a buffalo herd, mink farm, smoke house, and most fun of all, a dance hall.

In the 1950s, a dance floor was bought from a local establishment, the Blue Note, Winsted, and installed in the loft of the newly built barn. The Boehlkes obtained a liquor license and began renting the loft out to private groups for weddings, parties, and dances.

When the new barn was being built to replace the tornado-destroyed one, the Boehlkes decided to continue the dance hall by turning the old milk room shed into a small bar. Alcohol was served and tickets were sold out the window.

The dances were held in the loft until 1993.The floor is still there, but now the loft is used for more conventional purposes ­ storing straw.

People still remember the Boehlke farm dances.

"Seniors still come up to me and ask 'Is that the place that had all the barn dances?"' Rita, explained.

Eugene supported Rita's claim by saying he gets asked all the time when he's having another dance.

The bar still houses a cooler and is used for small family occasions. Recently, Anna's 80th birthday was celebrated in the one-time milk room.

Fires, tornados, cold weather and even a little dancing ­ the 125-year-old eyes of the Boehlke farm have just about seen it all.

One might wonder what it takes to keep a small dairy farm in one family, for well over a century.

"There is a great bond and pride within the family for the farm," Rita said.

She mentioned a time this fall when she saw this bond and pride in the Boehlke family.

"This past year, Eugene and all four of his brothers did the harvest," Rita explained. "That was pretty special."

She told of how disappointed she was in herself for not taking a picture of the brothers before they left that night.

As far as the future of the Boehlke farm, Rita says neither she, nor Eugene, force the farm life on the kids, but they seem to be interested in it and the animals anyway. This gives Rita a good feeling about the farm that has seen and survived just about everything.

"I believe it will be carried on one way or another," she said.

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