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Family Tradition

Wilbert Hoyhtya, Lee, Lyn, Leah and Logan Moorhouse, Brendan Tretbar (infant) and Don and Ruth (Hoyhtya) Topeari;1 / 5
Audrey and JIm Savig (far right) and their family, Darcy, Jenny, Carter, Austin, Derrik and Brodie Savig.2 / 5
THE WALBERG CENTURY FARM (upper left photo, clockwise from left) was represented by Jerry, Melanie, Jim, Wyatt and Andrea Walberg (Steve and Scott Walberg were out combining);3 / 5
THE TEIKEN BROTHERS CENTURY FARM was represented by Ed Doell (who came from Portland, Ore.), Terry Teiken and Dwight Teiken;4 / 5
Sauer Century Farm represented by Nicholas, Krystle, Forrest, Sharon and Russell Sauer. The farms were recognized July 31 at the Becker County Fair.5 / 5

Since 1976, the Minnesota State Fair Board has been recognizing farms in the state that have been in the same family for 100 years or more.

Ten years later, in 1986, the Becker County Fair Board established a century farm recognition program of its own -- and since that time, a total of 72 farms in the county have been honored.

This year, five more century farms were added to the list, bringing the total to 77 farms. The families who still own those century farms were honored at a special ceremony held Saturday, July 31 at the Becker County Fair.

Hoyhtya Farm

The Wilbert Hoyhtya farm in rural Wolf Lake has been in the family since Wilbert's grandparents, Henry and Greta Tanney, purchased it in 1893.

In 1904, the farm was passed on to their daughter Hilja (an only child) and her husband, John Hoyhtya. They had 11 children, of which Wilbert was the youngest.

"We (Wilbert and his wife Shirley) purchased the farm from my mother in July 1975," Hoyhtya said.

Before that, Hoyhtya served for 20 years with the U.S. military.

"I went to Frazee schools until my sophomore year, then I joined the service," he said. "I was with the U.S. Army paratroopers from 1955 to 1957, then joined the Air Force in January 1958."

He remained with the Air Force for 18 years. During that time, he and his wife Shirley had their first two children, son Jeffrey and daughter Lynn. Youngest son Kevin was born after they moved back to the family farm.

After purchasing the farm, Wilbert and Shirley maintained a dairy operation there for several years, before switching to beef cattle.

"We did some logging too," Hoyhtya said. "I liked the country life, logging and farming."

But the Hoyhtya children did not share their father's interest in farming, and in 1985, he retired.

Wilbert's wife Shirley passed away in 2008; he continues to live on the property by himself. Oldest son Jeffrey lives in Tucson, Ariz., while his daughter, Lynn Moorhouse operates a beauty shop in Park Rapids, and youngest son Kevin lives with his wife Erica in Andover, Minn., where he works for Boston Scientific.

Though he enjoyed farming, Hoyhtya said he doesn't really miss it anymore.

"I'm 74, I'll be 75 soon," he said. "I just had an auction sale June 12 and sold the old machinery."

Nelson Farm

The Nelson family farm, located on the Becker-Clay County line near Ulen, was first purchased by Peder and Ida Nelson in 1910.

But prior to that, Peder's father Anton and his wife, Sarah Jensen Nelson, had homesteaded a farm 12 miles northwest of Lake Park. Their seven children ranged in age from 3 to 20 years; Peder was 16 at that time.

In the year 1896, 13 years after immigrating to America, the four boys plus one sister, and their families, including 29-year-old Peder, ventured to an area just opening up for homesteading near Clearbrook, Minn. Five of the children homesteaded 9 miles northeast of Clearbrook. The remaining children and their families settled on farms north of Hitterdal.

When Anton became ill in 1905, he asked Peder and his family to return to Hitterdal to help operate the farm, which they did. In 1906, Anton died, and Sarah eventually sold the homestead.

In 1910, Peder bought the neighboring farm, one mile southwest of Anton's homestead. His son Arnold began farming with him at a very young age, walking behind the horses at age six, dragging the fields. He never had the opportunity to attend school.

When Arnold was 27 years old, his dad, Peder, became bedridden with crippling arthritis, and the responsibility of operating the farm became solely his. This was during the Depression and the drought in the 1930's -- and after Peder had lost the farm to the State of Minnesota in 1924.

It was not until 1951 that Arnold was able to buy back the farm from the state. Arnold lived on this land for over 79 years, most of them with his wife Hjordus.

His daughters, Audrey Savig and Diane Bakke, eventually took over the property in 1991. Audrey remembers how difficult it was during those early years:

"Times were tough," she said. "Dad and Mom worked very hard on the farm, raising crops of potatoes, wheat, barley, oats, corn, flax, and alfalfa, plus milk cows, calves, horses, hogs, chickens, and baby chicks to care for. The job was before sun-up to after sundown, 365 days a year."

Savig said she decided to apply for century farm status this year as a way of honoring her father.

"I felt it was time to do this for my dad, so that he could get some acknowledgement for all the years he worked so diligently on the farm," she said. "I know he would be very honored."

Sauer Farm

The Sauer family farm, located about seven miles south of Detroit Lakes, was homesteaded in 1877 by John and Rosa Sauer.

"We are the fourth generation on the farm," said John's great grandson, Russell, who still lives there with his wife, Sharon.

"He (John) came from a family of nine," added Russell Sauer. "His three oldest brothers and sisters were born in Germany; the other six (including John) were born in Oak Creek, Wis."

John continued to live in Oak Creek until joining the Army at age 19, during the Civil War.

"He was in the war from 1862 to 1865, until he contracted hepatitis," Sauer said. "That kind of plagued him the rest of his life; he had continued medical problems after that."

In 1865, John Sauer moved to Chicago and sold furniture, until the Chicago fire of October 1871. After moving back to Wisconsin for a few years, he finally settled on the current property, near the Otter Tail County line.

"Supposedly, he and his wife moved out here with three of his brothers, then he stayed on the farm and his brothers went off to make their way in the world," Russell Sauer said. "They never saw each other again."

Since then, the farm has changed hands three times: Anna and Edward Sauer operated it from 1910-45; Helen and Harry Sauer from 1945-89; and Russell and Sharon took over on April 26, 1989.

They have three children, sons Nicholas and Forrest, and daughter Alane. Though all three of them are in college, Nicholas and Forrest were both on hand for the July 31 ceremony.

"It's hard to say if it (the farm) will stay in the family," said Russell. "They're (the children) in college, off establishing their careers."

Russell said that while his parents operated a dairy farm on the property their whole lives, he and Sharon have careers off the farm, and have turned it into a tree farming operation.

He is an anesthetist who works at various hospitals in the area on an "on call" basis, while wife Sharon is an RN who works in the Detroit Lakes school system.

Teiken Brothers Farm

The Ed and Al Teiken farm, located two miles south and a half mile east of Ogema, was purchased by their German immigrant parents in March 1910, shortly after the land on the White Earth Indian Reservation was opened to settlers.

Due to the tough economic times of the Depression, the Teikens turned over operation of the farm to their sons, Ed and Al (the youngest of 12 children), in 1936.

"The debt against the farm was more than it was worth," said Ed Teiken's son, Terry. "These two kids with an eighth grade education took over the farm, and with a lot of blood, sweat, tears, back breaking work and faith in god, they turned it around, got it out of debt and expanded it from 300 to nearly 600 acres."

Six hundred acres may not seem like much by today's standards, Terry Teiken added, "but they were diversified -- they raised wheat barley and flax, milked cows, had geese and hogs."

All together, the Teiken brothers and their wives raised seven children on the farm.

"All four of their sons were military veterans," Terry Teiken said. "Faith in god and pride in country were practiced on that farm."

Though the Teiken brothers retired from farming in 1978, "I'm proud to say it's been able to stay in the family name," said Terry.

"When I think about heroes, I think of my dad and uncle," he added. "It's just amazing what they did, with such a limited education ... that's all that was available to them back then."

Teiken also thinks it's fitting that the farm is being honored in 2010.

"My dad would have been 100 years old in October," he said. "It's kind of neat we're celebrating the centennial (of the farm) in the same year."

Walberg Farm

The Walberg family farm, located five miles north and a half mile east of Detroit Lakes, has been in continuous operation since it was purchased by Sven and JoHanna Walberg in 1893.

Sven's son Carl and his wife Lena took over the operation in 1941, and in 1971, it was passed on to their son Jerome ("Jerry") and his wife, Patricia Walberg.

"Jerry's dad was four years old when they homesteaded here," said his daughter-in-law, Melanie Walberg, who is married to Jerry's son Steve.

"When Steve was young they had milking cows," she added. "But the economics were really bad for that industry ... they almost went bankrupt, but they were able to turn it around and put (the land) into small grains."

Though Steve and his brother Scott both work outside the farm -- Steve works at the highway department, Scott has a pumping business -- they both help their dad on the farm as much as possible.

"It's a big family affair," Melanie said, adding that her 6-year-old son, Wyatt, is very interested in taking over the operation one day.

"We all support each other," she said. "It's exciting to have a fifth generation that really wants to farm. If he (Wyatt) could drive, he'd be out there in the fields right now.

"Jerry's excited because he's at the point where he can really teach (Wyatt)... about responsibility for things, respecting things and taking care of your property," she added. "On the Saturday before the fair Jerry had the combine going and Wyatt was in there with him."

Melanie added that her daughter Andrea wants to learn how to drive a tractor as well.

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