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Busy as they want to be: For Lyle and Janet Dahlgren, 'slowing down' is relative

There was a time, Lyle Dahlgren says, when he envisioned retirement as sitting back in his armchair, smoking his favorite pipe and dispensing sage advice to those who would come to listen.

But it hasn't exactly worked out that way, as his wife Janet will tell you.

"We're semi-retired," she says. But while they sold their dairy herd four years ago -- "Lyle was in the dairy business for 50 years," she says -- the couple still has about 40 head of beef cattle, and together with their son, Brian, they either rent or own about 350 acres in rural Lake Park, for raising hay and grain.

These days, Lyle and Janet's son Brian -- who is married and has two children of his own -- is a partner in the farm operation. (Daughter Heidi, her husband and four children currently live in Pine Island, in the southeastern part of the state near Rochester.)

During the summers, Janet says, their six grandchildren are frequent visitors.

"I'm a busy grandma in the summertime," she says with a smile.

And on Thursday, Lyle was busy helping some of his neighbors with the beet harvest until early evening. So while they may have slowed down some, the Dahlgrens are still as busy as they want to be.

"With farming, you can slow down but still have plenty to do (after retiring)," Lyle says, admitting that the slowing down part is "questionable on some days."

The couple continues to live on the farm that has been in Lyle's family for going on six generations now.

"My great grandparents came from Sweden and settled here," he says, adding that they still spoke their native tongue when they arrived in the U.S. "They homesteaded this farm."

"We were honored by Becker County as a century farm in 1987," Janet adds. The land that was homesteaded by Lyle's ancestors in 1887 has now been in the Dahlgren family for 120 years.

And this past spring, the Dahlgrens were also honored "Valley Farmers & Homemakers of the Year" for Becker County.

Both Lyle and Janet say the honor was a complete surprise, though Lyle adds he was "suspicious" when he failed to get the call from the Red River Valley Development Association (which chooses the award winners each year) to sit on the selection committee.

"I sat on the committee that chooses (the award winners) for 20 years," he says. But when Janet got the call from RRVD vide president Bruce Hein, saying that they would be the 2007 honorees for Becker County, "I kind of got blindsided," he adds.

Besides working on the farm, Lyle is currently the president of the Becker County Farm Bureau.

"Being on the (Farm Bureau) executive committee automatically puts you on a lot of different boards and committees," he adds.

He and Janet are also very active in Strandvik Lutheran Church, where they have remained members throughout their 44 years of married life.

Janet also serves as treasurer of the Lake Park Garden Club. According to longtime neighbor and friend Marion Jacobson, Janet is "one of the main ones we depend on for produce to sell at our Lake Park Pumpkin Fest (which is sponsored annually by the garden club)."

"I like to garden, and I like to do quilting -- we have a small neighborhood quilting club that meets once a month in our homes," she says. "There are about eight of us that do it."

Though Lyle has lived in Becker County his entire life, Janet was born and raised in Indiana. They were first introduced by Janet's sister, Norma Jean, and her husband Len Grotnes, who ran the Valhalla Resort on Island Lake.

"Len and Lyle were in the same (U.S. Army) reserve unit in Detroit Lakes," Janet explains. "Len introduced us, and the rest is history, I guess."

In addition to serving in the army reserve for five and a half years, Lyle also completed two years of ag school at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Janet has been a homemaker for all of their married life, and was also very involved in the dairy farm until Lyle sold the herd four years ago.

"I was very involved when we had the milking cows," she says. "I always took care of the calves -- at one time we had 42 of them I was taking care of... it took me as long to do that as it took them to milk the cows."

Janet also helped in the field whenever she was needed -- and still does. It's all part of being a farm wife, she says. Now, she enjoys spending more time in her gardens in the summer, and quilting in the winter.

As for Lyle, he's pretty much been a farmer all his life. "I can remember being out plowing with my little Ford tractor when I was 12 years old," he says. "Some of the machines they have at Rollag (site of the annual Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion) I can remember using when I was a kid."

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