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Century Farms: Exhibit at Holmes Theatre honors Becker County pioneers

A new exhibit debuted Saturday at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre, in conjunction with the theater's season-opening presentation of the touring musical, "Songs From the Tall Grass."

This exhibit pays tribute to the 64 farms in Becker County that have been honored as "century farms" since the county recognition program began in 1986.

According to Holmesville Township native Roger Engstrom -- whose family was honored by the State of Minnesota and Becker County with century farm status in 1993 -- the Minnesota State Fair Board has been recognizing century farms since 1976.

"A century farm has to be at least 50 acres, and has to have been in a family for 100 or more years (of continuous ownership)," he said.

"I think it's important, because it's quite an accomplishment to keep something going in a family for that long."

So in 1986, Engstrom approached the Becker County Fair Board with a proposal to start a century farm recognition program specifically for Becker County. They liked the idea.

Since then, 64 farms in Becker County have been honored with century farm status. The Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce sponsors a personalized plaque for each family honored, and their family name is inscribed on the official Becker County Century Farm plaque.

That county plaque is part of the Holmes Theatre display, as is the Engstrom family's own century farm award.

The exhibit also contains an antique horse bridle and collar, horseshoe and blacksmith's tools, along with a pioneer-era porcelain doll, curling iron and clothes iron, dishes, and even a lefse roller.

A montage of photos from Engstrom and fellow century farm honorees including Jim and Joe Mack, Virginia Earley and Lois Hass, among others, includes images from both modern and pioneer-era farm life -- as well as an original homestead contract signed by President Grover Cleveland.

"Those who went before us -- the pioneers -- they laid the groundwork for our society today," Engstrom said. "They built the schools, the churches, the courthouses -- and we've built upon the foundation they laid."

"We try to find more century farms (to honor) every year," Engstrom said. "I wish more people would call in. If your farm has been in your family 100 years or more, that's something to be proud of and something that should be recognized."

The exhibit will be on display at the Historic Holmes Theatre through Friday, Oct. 5. For more information, contact the theater box office at 218-844-7469 (SHOW).

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