Farm Horizons, October 2014

Barton farm in Silver Lake honored for 150 years of family ownership

By Starrla Cray

Herald Barton always encouraged his kids to be diversified, and his son, Barry, took that advice to heart.

Through the years, Barry and his wife, Sharon, operated a mini storage business, a laundromat and carwash, and a bookstore – all while running a successful crop farm in Silver Lake.

Of all his endeavors, Barry considers farming his “first love.”

“It still seems to be the most rewarding,” he said. “It’s nice to know you’re helping feed the world.”

The Barton farm was recently recognized by the Minnesota Farm Bureau as a Sesquicentennial Farm, an honor given to Minnesota families that have owned their farms for at least 150 years, are at least 50 acres in size, and are currently involved in agricultural production.

The Bartons currently farm a total of 1,900 acres, including the original 160-acre plot on Kale Avenue.

The first member of Barry’s family to own the farm was his maternal great-great grandfather, Wensel Urban. The land has been passed down through the generations, always staying in the family.

Growing up, Barry and his two older brothers, Bill and Bob, helped with the family’s chicken breeding and hatchery business, as well. The Bartons got out of the chicken business about 30 years ago, but crop farming continues to be a focal point.

Barry began his career in agriculture right after high school.

“When I was 24, I snuck in a couple quarters at the university,” he said, adding that he ultimately chose to return to farming full time.

Sharon’s childhood was also spent on a farm, about five miles south of Silver Lake, where her parents raised hogs and grew corn, soybeans, and oats.

“Our families knew each other a long time; our grandmothers were good friends,” Sharon said, adding that both families happen to have 100 percent, full-blooded Czechoslovakian heritage.

When their daughters, Amy and Anna, were in school, Sharon remembers a homework assignment where they had to make a pie chart showing their ancestors’ nationalities.

“It was all one color,” Sharon laughed. “The teachers didn’t believe it at first.”

Today, Anna makes her home in Wheaton, IL, and works in the corporate marketing department of Aldi, a supermarket chain.

Amy works at Wells Fargo, and is currently living in Sioux Falls, SD.

“She just got married July 12,” Sharon added.

Along with their Czech heritage, it seems that for Barry and Sharon, farming is in the blood, too.

“Farming is a part of me,” Barry said, adding that he hopes the farm can continue to be part of the family long into the future.

Past and present farm owners

The 160-acre farm on Kale Avenue in Silver Lake has had various owners the past 150 years, all from the family of Barry and Sharon Barton. Here is a timeline:

• March 1, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln transferred the land to Wensel Urban.

• Nov. 17, 1880 – Wensel Urban’s son, James Urban, took ownership of the farm.

• Feb. 17, 1916 – James Urban’s wife, Mary, became the owner. James and Mary’s son, William A. Urban, assumed ownership soon after.

• Jan. 14, 1936 – William A. Urban’s wife, Alice, became the owner.

• Nov. 2, 1948 – William and Alice’s daughter, Beatrice, and her husband, Herald Barton, became the landowners.

• Oct. 17, 1972 – The farm became the property of Herald M. Barton & Sons, Inc.

• Jan. 1, 2005 – Ownership name was changed to Barton Farms, Inc. It is currently owned by Barry and Sharon Barton and their daughters, Amy and Anna Barton.

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