Farm Horizons, April 2012

New Germany woman was ‘country when country wasn’t cool’

By Linda Scherer

Rosalie Knott was named Carver County’s Farm Woman of the Year in 2011.

It was an honor she was most deserving of, according to her nine children, who nominated her.

As the woman of the household, Rosalie has not only taken care of her family’s needs, according to the Knott children, but also makes business decisions for the farm, does field work, stacks hay bales, takes care of the dairy cows, and other animals; and shows no fear in climbing the 60-foot, 50-foot, and 40-foot silos when they are clogged.

“The word ‘can’t’ was never in Rosalie’s vocabulary,” her children wrote to the American Dairy Association in a two-page letter. “The thought that a woman was neither able, nor strong enough to do the same job as a man was never a consideration.”

In their letter, the Knott children chose the song, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” written by K. Fleming and D. Morgan, and performed by Barbara Mandrell, to better describe their mother, saying, “the lyrics touch the soul of our mother.”

Rosalie admits to living through some challenging years when the children were younger, especially when her husband, Leander Knott, who she married in 1956, was ill so much of the time. He died in 1989 of Farmer’s Lung, according to Rosalie. For the last two years of his life, he was on oxygen to help him breathe.

“They called it Farmer’s Lung because we were farming, but I actually think it was from when he was in the service in Korea and they used those chemicals,” Rosalie said. “He was sick from the time we were married. He was always running a fever and didn’t feel good so I kind of became, more or less, the farmer. Not by choice, but by necessity,” Rosalie said.

She could have sold the farm when Leander died, but she didn’t even consider that an option.

“What would I have done with the children?” Rosalie said. “This way I could be with my kids. We could always talk. A lot of times we did most of the talking in the barn between the cows.”

From when they were little on, all of the children had chores to do. Chores were called a “business contribution.”

The older girls would help in the house with the younger children getting them ready for school each day, and bed each night, Rosalie recalled.

The two oldest boys helped in the barn at a very young age, starting by carrying buckets of silage to feed the cows.

“They were always willing to help,” Rosalie said.

At one point, Rosalie was milking 100 cows and farming about 300 acres of land.

She remembers times when they got $3 per-hundred-pounds for milk. Today, the price is $17 or $18 per-hundred, and pretty constant.

“There was a time a few years back, for several months the milk price was up to $21 (per-hundred pounds), and holy cow, I couldn’t believe that check,” she said.

Each year, they raised chickens for eggs, and 400 rooster chickens to butcher and sell. They would butcher about 25 roosters at a time, and there were always buyers for them.

In addition to the dairy cows and chickens, the family also raised about 300 hogs in a farrow-to-finish setup.

The money from the hogs was used to pay for the children’s tuition at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Winsted. All nine children, Cherlyn, Doreen, David, Gerald, Juliann, Nancy, Roger, Coralie, and Katrina, are graduates of Holy Trinity High School.

When the children had school sporting events or a concert in the evening, it meant Rosalie would have to get the cows milked early, and feed the chickens and pigs before she was able to arrive for the last half of whatever the activity was.

According to the Knott children, they all understood the farm business had priority because it kept them all fed, but their mother always made an extra effort to attend sporting and band events even though she was exhausted.

There were many times Rosalie said she worried about surviving on the farm.

When Leander and Rosalie bought the New Germany farm in 1966, after farming with Leander’s brothers for 10 years, times were tough. They took their half of the dairy herd to start out, but Rosalie was worried about not having enough machinery.

“Those first years we didn’t have money. It was rough,” Rosalie said. “We were basically starting out farming.”

“It was kind of scary, but it worked out. Somebody would have the machinery and my folks helped out a lot,” Rosalie said.

For a few years, she and Leander ran a successful Jacques seed corn dealership, where they stored and sold seed corn to local farmers to help supplement their farm income.

The drought in the ‘80s had Rosalie thinking they weren’t going to make it. She waited until the last week to sign up for drought insurance, not knowing how she was going to be able to pay for it.

“I thought; ‘what have I got to lose? If I can’t afford to pay the premium, I will probably lose the farm too,’” Rosalie said.

“The crops were so bad, there was hardly anything,” Rosalie said. “The crop insurance that year saved us.”

Farming isn’t always enjoyable, according to Rosalie, especially when things don’t go right. But Rosalie said she has always loved to farm.

It was a discovery she made very early in life, she estimates at about 5 years old.

That was when she was able to find her way down to her parents, Henry, Sr. and Anna Vorlicek’s barn in Silver Lake.

“I liked being down in the barn,” Rosalie recalled. “I would rather be down in the barn or outside with the animals than up in the house. I never cared about housekeeping.”

The Vorlicek barn is where Rosalie learned one of her favorite social activities – old time dancing.

“I learned to dance with my dad in the barn while we milked cows,” Rosalie said. “We always had old time music on the radio.”

About 15 years ago, after Leander died, Rosalie joined the Polka Lovers of America and is a former vice president. She is currently serving as a board member of the club.

At old time dances all around the area, Rosalie is a familiar face, attending dances whenever she can.

She recommends dancing as a way to keep fit. Rosalie said she can dance the entire night if she can find someone to dance with.

She has a schedule memorized of when the dances are at Buffalo, Hutchinson, Maple Lake, and Montrose; and she keeps a program schedule of when dances are at the Pla Mor Ballroom in Glencoe.

Besides working on the farm and dancing polkas, Rosalie also enjoys her job at the New Germany Post Office, where she has worked part time for about 13 years.

“I just wanted something different to do,” Rosalie said of her job at the post office. “To just get away from the farm for a couple of hours. The boys are running the farm now and it gives me a chance to visit with people a little more.”

She works as a postmaster replacement, Saturday morning for three hours or helps out if someone is on vacation.

The Knott farm today

Gerald, David and Rosalie Knott formed a family partnership called the GDR Farms a number of years ago. It’s a partnership which exists today.

The farm is a dairy, steer, and crop operation. They milk approximately 60 cows and farm more than 300 acres.

Rosalie’s favorite part of farming is driving tractor and doing the field work. She does all of the field work except for the planting, which she leaves to David and Gerald.

When her children call home to find out what is going on, a common reply from Rosalie is, “I had a date with John Deere this weekend.”

She keeps up with what’s new in farming by attending different farm meetings in the area, and reading farm magazines. The rest she has learned from experience.

Her bookwork is done on paper. She doesn’t own or want to own a computer.

She does have a cell phone, but said most of the calls relating to farm work are regarding someone being stuck on the back forty.

The farm ethic of hard work and making hay while the sun shines, is a work ethic that Rosalie learned from her parents, and something she believes in today. She said she was glad she was given the opportunity to pass it on to her children, and now her 10 grandchildren.

“I have always enjoyed farming. I guess I was never interested in getting rich or anything as long as I had enough to pay the bills and make ends meet,” Rosalie said. “The good Lord provided, that is all I can say, and gave me the strength to do it.”

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