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A real farming dynasty: Rural Lake Park brothers plan to pass on century farm to fourth generation

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The Mattson family farm in rural Lake Park has gone through a few changes in its 100-year existence, but the barn shown at left in this historic photo is still standing. (Submitted photo)2 / 12
Neighbors helping neighbors in need to bring in their annual harvest has been a common practice among family farms in the area, since before the days that motorized tractors replaced the horse-drawn farm machinery that was in use when the Mattsons first established their farm. (Submitted photo)3 / 12
Though it's been updated a few times, this barn is one of two original structures remaining on the 100-year-old Mattson Brothers family farm in rural Lake Park. (Submitted photo)4 / 12
Farmers pooling their rseources, both machinery and manpower, to bring in the harvest was a common sight 50 years ago, and continues to happen even today when a neighbor needs a helping hand. (Submitted photo)5 / 12
Becker County Fair Board member Roger Winter presented the Mattson family with their Century Farm award on Aug. 2 at the family's rural Lake Park farm. Those present for the presentation were (from left) Justin Mattson, Bob Mattson, Roger Winter, Roger Mattson, Rick Mattson and Corey Mattson. (Vicki Gerdes/Tribune)6 / 12
An aerial view of the Mattson family farm in rural Lake Park, taken in 1952.l The house at the right and barn at the left are one of two original structures still standing on the homestead, established in 1917 by Mathias and Lena Mattson. (Submitted photo)7 / 12
This 2014 photo depicts the corn harvest at the Mattson family farm in rural Lake Park, which turned 100 years old this year. (Submitted photo)8 / 12
This late 1930s photo shows family matriarch Lena Mattson (at right) with Mervin Mattson (on tractor) and Vernon Mattson (next to Lena). Submitted photo9 / 12
This 2009 photo depicts the sugar beet harvest at the Mattson family farm. The Mattsons say that the sugar beet harvest is the only time that the five of them can't handle all the work themselves; they bring in about 22 extra people to get the harvest in on time. (Submitted photo)10 / 12
A mid-1950s harvest at the Mattson family farm in rural Lake Park, which was awarded Century Farm status this past month at the Becker County Fair. (Submitted photo)11 / 12
The Mattson Bros., Inc. family farm operation of 2017 encompasses roughly 5,800 acres — owned and rented — of corn (pictured), soybeans, wheat and sugar beets. The family got out of the dairy business in 1976, and quit raising cattle altogether about 20 years ago. (Submitted photo)12 / 12

Lena Ellingson was just 13 years old when she first met Mathias Mattson on the boat from Norway to the United States — and he wasn't much older himself.

But that early encounter would lead to a marriage — and to a Becker County farming dynasty that exists to this day. Mathias and Lena's grandsons, Robert (Bob), Roger and Richard (Rick), have managed to not only maintain the original, 133-acre rural Lake Park homestead that was started by their grandparents back in 1917, but expand it into the 5,800-acre operation that it is today.

In recognition of that achievement, Mattson Bros., Inc., was one of two Becker County farm operations honored with Century Farm status at the county fair on July 29.

"We do take pride in that," says Rick Mattson.

The original 133-acre parcel in Cuba Township that Mathias and Lena purchased from G.J. Norby back in 2017 was not the couple's first home, however.

"They lived in a couple of different places before they bought this farm," said Bob Mattson. "They first moved to southern Minnesota, by Worthington, which is where they got married."

But after moving to rural Lake Park, the couple proceeded to raise 13 children there, including Vernon — father of Bob, Rick and Roger — and their uncle Martin, who jointly took over ownership of the farm from Lena in 1959 (Mathias had passed away in 1939).

"Their brother, our uncle Mervin also farmed locally, and his sons and grandsons still farm in this area," says Rick.

"But this is where it all started," Corey added.

After purchasing the operation from Martin and Vernon in 1976, the brothers have now been joined by two of the next generation of Mattsons: Bob's son Justin, and Rick's son Corey, who are ready to carry on the family legacy.

Aside from sugar beet harvest time, when the Mattsons bring on about 22 extra workers — friends, relatives and hired men — to bring in the 1,100-acre crop on time, "the five of us don't hire any extra help," says Rick. "We do it all ourselves."

Though they used to run a dairy operation as well as grain, the current farm includes only grain crops — wheat, soybeans, corn and the aforementioned sugar beets.

"There were always cattle here until about 20 years ago," said Bob.

"We were a dairy and grain farm," added Roger, "but dairy was the main focus until the 1970s."

"Nineteen seventy six was the year we sold the milking cows," Bob said. "We fed cattle for a while after that."

"We got into beets in 1997," Rick added.

In total, the family farms about 5,800 acres of land — some owned, some rented — with each of them taking on different roles in its operation.

"Somehow, it all gets done," says Corey.

"The nice thing is, you can make group decisions," Roger added.

Though it's Roger who currently lives on the original homestead, along with his wife Laurie and their children, Emma, Jack and Luke, it is still "home" to all three of them, and serves as the main headquarters for the operation.

Besides Corey, Rick and his wife Lisa have two other children, Craig and Ashley.

"Corey is the youngest," said Rick.

Besides Justin, Bob and his wife Julie raised five other children, including one daughter, Jamie, and sons Jeremy, Jesse, Josh and John.

"Jesse died eight years ago, from an aneurism," said Bob.

Justin also has two children of his own with wife Chelsea: Daughters Avery and Elin.

So will the next generations of Mattsons be able to keep the farm going for another century?

"I sure hope so," says Corey.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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