Farm Horizons, December 2012

Several local farms receive century farm designation in ‘12

By Ryan Gueningsman

A number of farms across the local area received the designation of a century farm in 2012. Here is a look at those profiled by Herald Journal staff.

Yager farm in Waverly

Vernon and Mildred Yager of rural Waverly have shared a bushel of memories in the 62 years they’ve been married.

“I tell people I’m still on my honeymoon,” Vernon joked.

“It’s just a way of living,” Mildred said, speaking of the family’s dedication to farming.

Vernon’s grandfather, Fred Yager, purchased four farms in 1905, including the 110-acre property on Wright County Road 8 near Waverly.

“In 1905, seven acres were fields,” Vernon said, explaining that the majority had been trees and pasture. “By 1950, 35 acres had been converted; and now, it is 90 percent farmland.”

Instead of just the original 110 acres, the property now includes a total of 315 acres, which the Yagers rent to area farmers.

In 1927, the farm was sold to Vernon’s parents, Lewis and Meta. Vernon started farming in 1952 when his folks moved to Cokato, but the farm wasn’t officially registered in his name until 1966. He met Mildred in 1947, and the couple was married three weeks before he left for the Korean War.

The Yagers had a son who was killed in a farming accident, have one daughter and four sons still living, as well as 14 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

Vernon suffers from health problems, but the couple still enjoys maintaining their country property, and Mildred plants large gardens each year.

The couple hopes to keep the farm in the family long into the future.

Kohnen farm in Loretto

Wide open spaces are becoming scarcer in Hennepin County, but the farm Jeff Kohnen’s great-grandfather bought in rural Loretto is still going strong.

“There used to be little farms everywhere,” Jeff said. “Now, I could probably count on two hands the number of active dairy farms in Hennepin County.”

The Kohnen farm is the only Hennepin County Century Farm to be honored this summer by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

In 1890, when Jeff’s great-grandparents, Oscar and Elma Sipe, settled in Loretto, Hennepin County was largely agricultural. According to the county’s website, farmland covered 284,000 acres (about 72 percent of the county’s total area) in the early 1900s.

By 1950, however, development reduced the amount of land devoted to agriculture to just 132,000 acres. Generations later, grandson Matt and his family farm in rural Buffalo, and Jeff’s family farms on the property that had belonged to Lloyd and Genevieve before they moved to a townhouse in Albertville.

“The farms are all basically together,” Jeff said. “We all pitch in. Sometimes two – or three – heads are better than one.”

Jeff also gives credit to the women in the family, who help with a variety of tasks on the farm.

“It’s all the behind-the-scenes stuff that keeps everything running,” he said.

Jeff’s wife, Stephanie, didn’t grow up on a farm, but she appreciates life in the country.

“There was a time when we didn’t have kids, and I helped out a lot more,” she said.

Jeff and Stephanie have two boys, Jared, 10, and Jonah, 8.

“I love living on the farm,” Jared said. “I like just working with my dad.”

Kassulker farm in Mayer

It’s been a good 117 years since the Kassulker family took possession of a plot of land northwest of Mayer, and this summer, their Century Farm was honored by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

“We’ve been living here all our lives,” said Larry Kassulker, who shares the farm with his brother, Ron.

The Kassulkers can trace the farm’s roots back to 1864, when it was owned by William Long. The original 160-acre spread had been split by the time Herman and Caroline Kassulker (the great-grandparents of Ron and Larry) came along, and they became the owners of 110 acres in 1895.

After Herman passed away, he left the farm to Caroline, who later divided ownership between her four children – Dorothea Stolp, William Kassulker, Edward Kassulker, and Amanda Kassulker.

The other children sold their shares to William Kassulker and his wife, Alma.

Years later, in 1951, William and Alma’s son, Norman, and his wife, Lorraine, purchased the property for $15,000.

Their boys, Ron and Larry, decided to keep up with the family tradition.

Larry and Ron quit milking cows in 1997, and have been cash cropping ever since. In addition to growing corn, wheat, hay, and soybeans, they raise a few beef cows, calves, and steers.

“Whatever we don’t use, we sell to a couple horse farms in the area,” Larry said.

When Norman passed away in 2006, he willed the farm to his children. The boys bought out their two sisters, and Ron now owns the building site and Larry owns the land.

“We still farm it half and half,” Larry said.

Because they found that the farm wasn’t large enough to support their families on its own, the Kassulkers have other jobs, as well.

Larry is a machinist, while Marilyn is employed at Medallion Cabinetry.

Ron, who considers himself partially retired, drives school bus in Watertown. His wife, Debbie, is a cook at The Legacy of Delano.

Ron and Larry both said they wish farming could be full-time, but are thankful for any opportunity to be involved in agriculture.

“In another 100 years, these Century Farms will be a thing of the past,” Larry said.

Terning farm in Cokato

Currently in its third generation of farming, the Terning family farm was recognized this year as a Century Farm.

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.

About the Century Farm designation

The Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota State Fair work in conjunction on the Century Farm program to honor Minnesota families that have owned their farms for at least 100 years, are at least 50 acres in size, and are currently involved in agricultural production.

Since the program began in 1976, around 8,000 farms in Minnesota have been recognized as Century Farms, with roughly 250 farms being designated each year. The Minnesota State Fair designates Century Farm status in early summer of every year.

Century Farm families receive a commemorative sign, as well as a certificate signed by the president of the State Fair, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, and the governor of Minnesota.

Other area farms receiving the designation in 2012 include the Mark and Renee Schlueter farm of Cologne, the Terry and Jill Bruesehoff farm of Norwood, the Raymond and Ann Hilk farm in Waconia, the DuWayne and Marna Paehlke farm in Brownton, the Daniel Totushek farm in Hutchinson, the James W. Olson and Joanne M. Olson farm of Cosmos, the Paul Pearson farm of Dassel, the Marc and Rebecca Plocher farm of Dassel, the Scott and Lori Doering farm of Gaylord, the Jim and Mary Ann Kreger farm of Green Isle, the William H. Lucas farm of Winthrop, the Lorren and Jeanne Glessing farm in Howard Lake, the Russell W. Nelson and Gary R. Nelson farm of Monticello, the Chris and Sheryl Olson farm of South Haven, and the Ronald and Mary Broll farm of Waverly.

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