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Paynesville Press - August 24, 2005

Family honored as land declared century farm

By Melissa Andrie

Ten years ago, Margaret Fuechtmann was encouraging her grandson to apply to the century farm program run by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau. She knew that the farm would not be eligible for another ten years, but anticipated the recognition of the Spring Hill Township farm where she spent most of her life. That grandson, Tom Fuechtmann - who, along with his wife, Kim, shares ownership of the family farm with his parents - did not waste time in fulfilling his late grandmother's request. This year, the 100th since the farm was purchased by Tom's great-grandfather, Louis Olmscheid, it was accepted into the program.

Century farms are recognized for being in one family for at least 100 years and must be at least 50 acres in size. The Fuechtmann farm, which started as 280 acres, is now a 467-acre dairy operation. It has been passed through the family, with ownership going from Olmscheid - a first-generation American whose parents came to Minnesota from Germany - to his daughter Margaret, who married Al Fuechtmann. Now their son Al Jr. and his wife Janet are beginning to transfer ownership of the land to Tom and Kim.

old The farm, purchased from Valentine Mohs at $27 per acre, has always had dairy cows, hogs, and chickens, but the cows did not begin as the focus. Al Jr., remembering his childhood, said his dad and mom spent "more money on the chickens them days than on the cows." There were about 500 chickens then, which were well cared for, and the cows ate the leftovers after the horses were fed, he said.

The Fuechtmann farm, is Spring Hill Township, has been in their family exactly 100 years. The photograph is likely from the 1950s.

When Al Jr. and Janet took over the farm, 18 cows were being milked. They tried raising pigs for a time - starting with around a dozen sows - but with no barn, they had to "depend on weather just likeŠfor growing crops," said Al Jr. If the sows farrowed in wet weather, they were easily lost.

Since that time, dairy has been the central part of the operation, and when milk cows, heifers, and calves are all considered, there is about 200 head on the farm.

Machinery on the farm has also changed drastically since Al Jr. was born on the farm. The first tractor on the farm, a Fordson, was used only to saw wood for the winters. A pulley on it went to the saw, and woodcutting crews would visit area farms just like trashing crews. When it was used during the winter, a fire had to be lit under the Fordson to help it start. When Al Jr. and Janet took over the farm in 1965, the number of tractors had doubled to two. Beyond the expansion in number and uses for tractors, the bucket milking that lasted for many years on the farm has been replaced by a pipeline system and the cows are fed much differently than before.

The herd was originally pastured, and cars stopped to wait for the cows as they crossed the road to the river bottom. When Al Jr. and Janet starting working on the farm while renting it from Al Sr. and Margaret, they used loose hay for winter feed. Hay loaders followed behind the rack at harvest time and left it loose until they started hiring a baler. Al Jr. and Janet bought the first baler, and in 1970 they stopped pasturing the cows. Now, the herd is given full feed in all seasons of the year and the old pasture land has been changed to field.

new farm To feed the herd, the Fuechtmanns started irrigating in 1976, but then they had too much feed and needed more silos and bins to store it, as well as more cattle to eat it. Now the storage facilities are much better, and Tom said the production is a good size. If you "make one move, you've gotta make everything bigger again," which the family is not looking to do right now, he said.

Three generations are currently caring for the Fuechtmann farm. Pictured are: Al Jr., Tanner, Janet, Emmy, Kim, and Tom. The two couples share ownership of the land, which has been declared a century farm.

The late Al Sr. built a shed and barn on the land that make up the old part of the current milking barn and machine shed. None of the original buildings are still standing, and the current home was built in 1984. The barn, which had electricity soon after its construction, was built in 1944. Individual farms quit generating electricity as that method gave way to power plants by 1945, said Al Jr.

Al Jr. remembers his mother Margaret picking up a calf and carrying it to the barn, around the time the barn was built. Once, she used a double-barrel gun to shoot two pheasants, though she laid down on her belly to avoid the kick from shooting. Tom said of her, "Grandma worked just as hard as a man," and loved the land, which is why she wanted to see it designated a century farm.

Her husband, Al Sr., loved life on the farm, too, and the family remembered he would often swing his car door open, kick out his feet, and simply stare across the fields. Whether dogs were his best friend or not, he had a way with them that made him their best friend. One of his farm dogs could tell he was coming even when he was a couple of miles down the road, and knew it was him even if he drove past and came back from the other direction to trick it.

Tom, who worked off the farm driving a milk truck for 11 years, came back to it because, he said, "too many people get on your nerves after a while." The Fuechtmanns appreciate the independence and privacy of running a farm, and Tom said, unlike his brother Steven, he knew he would "end up here someday."

As he and Kim continue to take over ownership from his parents, Tom said they plan on keeping it a dairy operation. Currently, they are irrigating approximately 300 acres, providing "almost guaranteed feed," and have a 27,000 pound herd average, he added. He and Kim have two children, Tanner, 11, and Emmy, 6, who are learning how to work the farm, perhaps to continue the family heritage by owning it someday. Another Spring Hill Township farm, owned by Jim and Darlene Schoenberg, was also declared a century farm this year.

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