Farm Horizons, February 2012

Public invited to view Latzig farm display

By Starrla Cray

Coffee grounds for manure, sawdust for bedding, and painted potato chip cans for silos . . .

It’s the meticulous details that make Dean Latzig’s tiny farm stand out in a big way.

“The cows came with white hooves, so we spent two-and-a-half hours dipping them in black paint,” recalled Dean’s mother, Darlene Latzig.

Dean passed away Oct. 4, 2011, but his memory lives on in his 1/64 scale farm toys.

The public is invited to view the extensive display at an open house Friday through Sunday, Feb. 24-26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lowell and Darlene Latzig’s home in New Germany (17660 Co. Rd. 30).

All donations will be given to New Germany’s 125th anniversary committee.

“I think it’ll be fun,” Darlene said. “I’m not sure how many people to expect.”

About 11 years ago, the Latzigs hosted a similar open house benefiting the food shelf. According to Darlene, they had a large turnout despite poor weather.

Those who enjoyed the display back then will definitely want to stop by again.

“Now, it’s much bigger,” Darlene said. “It’s up here and it’s down the steps and it’s all over.”

Health challenges change farming plans

As a child, Dean loved farming and had planned to take over the family’s dairy operation someday.

“From the time he could carry a pail, he was in the barn,” Darlene said.

However, at age 32, Dean was diagnosed with a genetically inherited emphysema called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

“He was born with it, but his symptoms didn’t show up until later,” Darlene said. “He had bronchitis three or four times before he was diagnosed, but they’d give him an antibiotic, and he’d be good again.”

Dean’s first indication that something wasn’t right was at age 31, when he woke up one morning with swollen legs.

“He had been on antibiotics for bronchitis at the time,” Darlene said. “I thought it might be a side effect, so I called the clinic.”

Tests revealed emphysema, and Dean’s doctors said it was essential for him to quit smoking.

Dean, who had been a smoker since he was 16, used nicotine patches to help him break the addiction.

“It took about two weeks, and he was done,” Darlene said.

Dean milked cows another two years after that, but the family eventually had to sell the herd and rent out the land.

An impressive collection

Unable to farm outside, Dean took his farming inside, and began collecting toy tractors.

“He used his cigarette money for the toys,” Darlene said.

Implement dealers, flea markets, and toy shows were Dean’s favorite places to visit.

The family especially looked forward to the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, IA, where Dean had won third place in the small-scale display division. He was featured for his accomplishment in the August 2011 issue of Toy Farmer Magazine.

“He got to know lots of people,” Darlene said, adding that they often stayed in homes of people who lived nearby.

This year, Dean’s nephew Chad Dobratz and Darlene went to the show to say goodbye to the vendors.

Although they might not attend farm toy shows like they used to, Lowell and Darlene will always be connected to the miniature farm world.

“The display will most likely stay here permanently,” Darlene said, explaining that it would be impractical to move.

One part of the extensive collection includes a 6-by-24-foot table depicting a variety of country scenes.

A wintry display is on one end, complete with a mini ice skating rink, snowmobile, snowplow with a Camden Township decal, real dried hay, and Santa Claus on a silo.

Another highlight is a county fair scene with rides and a tractor pull. A working road and railroad tracks border the table.

“Dean wanted to do a road construction scene with CAT equipment, but he didn’t get that far,” Darlene said.

For more information about the open house Feb. 24-26, contact the Latzig family at (952) 353-2309.

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