100 years and counting

Published 9:48 am Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gene and Darlene Jacobson’s farm is picture perfect — a well-manicured lawn stretching for what seems like miles; rows of flowers and shady trees; a well-kept white and green farmhouse; thick rows of corn stretching over your head. The family takes pride in their property, and it shows.

Jacobsons’ farm is being honored by the Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota Farm Bureau as a Century Farm. The family has continuously owned the 160-acre farm, located on 710th Avenue in Grand Meadow, since 1909.

Gene’s grandfather, Ole Jacobson, bought the farm in 1909. It was owned by Gene’s uncle until Gene bought it in 1952. Darlene said they paid $800 per month for the house the first year they lived there.

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Ole, a father of six, was a Danish immigrant. Gene’s great-grandfather also came to the United States from Denmark after his wife died.

“There was no future for them,” Gene said.

Gene, 79, retired five years ago, although he helps out in the spring and fall. He lives at the farmhouse with Darlene, 77, and their son, Randy, 55. The Jacobsons own two other farms within a few miles. Both are about 70 years old; Darlene grew up on one of them.

Although Randy owns 65 head of cattle in addition to farming beans and corn, the family once took on much more.

“When we first moved here, we had everything — chickens, cows, pigs, sheep,” Darlene said. “You had to. We didn’t have any running water for a few years.”

The current house was built in 1927 and has had additions. A large red barn burned down in 1963, and was rebuilt. There are a few sheds and bins. The oldest building on the property is a brick well house, although the family doesn’t know when it was built.

“He didn’t want a big house, but he got a big house,” Darlene joked of her husband.

The Jacobsons — both raised in Grand Meadow — had seven children, but only Randy stayed in farming.

Gene said he never really considered getting out of farming, although the farm crisis in the 1980s made for tough times.

The family has seen many changes in the area over the years.

“Some farmers move to town and the boys move in,” Randy said.

They also have a new addition to the landscape — dozens of wind turbines spinning over the fields of corn. Darlene said they don’t bother her.

“Well, if it cuts down on the oil…” she said.

Other Century Farms in Mower County honored are owned by the Rockwell family of Brownsdale and the Schmeling family of Waltham.

The Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota Farm Bureau are recognizing 114 Century Farms this year. To qualify, farms must be in continuous family ownership for at least 100 years and be 50 acres or more.