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August 21, 2013
Vosbergs celebrated Century Farm
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- As the region's century farms go, the Vosberg homestead is a true old-timer.
It was homesteaded in 1888, a full 25 years before Gordon Vosberg's grandparents, Edward and Anna Cohrs, purchased the farm in 1913. The purchase price was $8,600.
“It was homesteaded by a Scandinavian who bought 160 acres for $8,” Gordon Vosberg said. “At the time, there was a railroad that ran through from Currie to Bingham Lake. We were surprised to learn that they purchased this land from the U.S. government and not the railroad, but that is what it says in the abstract.”
Shortly after purchasing the property for $8,600 in May of 1913, the owners sold the east 80-acre parcel to the owners of adjoining land.
While the farm place has seen its share of changes over the years, it continues to be productive and treasured by Gordon and Linda.
Gordon continues to farm while his wife, Linda, works at the Slayton Post Office. She spent 20 years with the post office, 17 as a carrier.
Gordon's parents buy farm
The farm was held by the Cohrs until 1947, when Edward Cohrs passed away. From there, Gordon's parents, George and Rose Vosberg purchased the farm.
The Vosbergs proceeded to start building many of the current buildings. They constructed a machine shed, chicken house, hog house and more.
The chicken house, which was built with double walls and insulation, served its first year as a living quarters while the family's house was being built.
“They hung blankets to divide the rooms,” Linda said. “And they lived there for almost a year.”
Once the house was finished, they proceeded to construct more buildings, which again were ultimately remodeled into something different. The dairy barn was used just a few years for that purpose before the larger dairy barn was constructed in 1951. The old barn was eventually turned into a hog house.
As they researched the century farm's history, the Vosbergs uncovered some interesting history. For instance, they learned that $2,200 was the original estimate for the barn's building materials. That included $120 for 100 bags of cement.
They also learned that, like many other farms of the era, the Vosberg farm was quite diversified.
“At one time, this farm had dairy, some hogs and chickens,” Gordon said, with a chuckle.
Over time, the family added a machine shed, farrowing building, nursery and remodeled the farm house.
“We raised all four of our kids, (Jean, 42; Jim, 39; Julie, 37 and Joe, 34) in the original house,” Linda said. “And Gordy lived here since he was two years old. The only time he didn't live here was when he was gone to serve in the military.”
Livestock was present on the farm until Gordon's father had some health issues and retired in 1965. At the time, all of the livestock was moved off the farm and the land was rented out.
Gordon and Linda take over
However, the farm was back to being busy and productive with Gordon raising both livestock and crops just a few years later.
Linda came to the farm in 1970, when she and Gordon were married. At the time, Gordon's parents were still in the house. Gordon and Linda lived in a trailer house across the driveway.
“Shortly after we were married, we had quite a bit of livestock here, with hogs and some beef,” Gordon recalled. “We finished hogs and started farrowing a few years later.
“We had hogs here until about five years ago. We had Yorkshire, Durocs and Hampshire.”
Gordon was the youngest of four brothers. Duane, Dale and Don were the others. It seemed only natural to Gordon to get involved in farming.
“My Dad was a farmer, plus he was a mechanic, so I grew up in a garage,” Gordon said. “When we were first married, I worked at Klasse Sales and Service for a few years as a mechanic. I mainly worked on farm equipment.”
There are countless reasons Gordon enjoys farming, but the main one is “peace and quiet.”
Linda, who also grew up on a farm, likes the wide open spaces.
“Owning your own land and business, you are your own boss,” Gordon said. “How ever hard you work is your own decision.
“I didn't take too many days off, though.”
The ups and downs
Both Gordon and Linda alluded to the ups and downs of farming.
“There were some darn tough years,” Gordon said.
“The 1980s were really tough because of prices,” Linda added. “But we did not get ourselves leveraged out, like a lot of people. We had hogs, which at the time were treating us OK.”
The Vosbergs also recalled some tough times in the 1990s, while farming and trying to put four kids through college.
“We just never had a spare dollar,” Linda recalled. “Looking back, we don't have a single picture of the farm from the 1990s. Nothing changed.”
“We just didn't spend a lot of money,” Gordon added with a grin.
“But we made it OK,” Linda said. “One year led to another and all of a sudden here we are.”
The family has seen plenty of change around the neighborhood through the years.
“We have good neighbors, what we have left of neighbors,” Linda said with a smile. “It's a good community. We have a Westbrook mailing address, but we always have considered ourselves Dovray people. Ask us where we are from and we'll say we're from Dovray.”
Century farm decision
The Vosbergs have been intrigued by the Century Farm process for several years.
“The first one we became aware of was the farm of Steve and Sue Johnson, who live just down the road,” Linda said. “I thought that was the neatest thing.
“Somewhere along the line, we got the abstract out and saw 2013 as the 100th year. At the time, 2013 was a long way into the future.
“Then about three or four years ago, I thought, 'Well, I think we are going to make this,' and we did.”
The Vosbergs say the application process for a century farm is actually quite simple. It involves names and dates, of course.
But there are only a couple of key qualifications:
*The farm has to be a minimum of 80 acres
*It has to have a house. If one owns the land, but there is no house, it doesn't qualify.
*There needs to be a family connection. It doesn't have to be a parent-child connection. Aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews qualify.
They filled out the application last winter and received confirmation in April stating the farm had been approved as a century farm.
One of the key additions to the farm, since the Vosbergs learned it qualified as a century farm, has been the big century farm rock at the entrance.
Getting the right rock and getting the century farm information engraved on the rock was not a quick and easy task. Linda got the idea of using a rock while reading a newspaper article about another century farm.
They stopped at one business that offers an engraving service and immediately got sticker shock. At another site, they found rocks that looked more like cemetery monuments.
“One day, as we were driving through Jasper on the way to Sioux Falls, we saw these huge rocks,” Linda recalled. “Gordy said, 'There has got to be a quarry around here.' We checked it out and found the place and learned that they had the best price we could find.”
Gordon and Linda spent some time crawling around on the debris pile until they found just the right rock.
“This is twice as hard as the rock at Dell Rapids,” Gordon said. “It is some of the hardest rock in the world.”
The rock has brought a number of compliments and serves as a sturdy reminder that this farm is rich with history.
That family farm history will no doubt be the cornerstone of the Vosbergs' upcoming celebration in August. The farm will host a family reunion which includes all of the descendants from both the Cohrs side and Vosberg side. As the evening continues, the event will get even bigger as friends and neighbors will be invited out for supper.
At the thought of this, Gordon and Linda glanced around the farm place, which to most would appear perfectly tidy. Gordon paused and added, “We still have a lot of work left to do this summer to get this place ready.”
After all, this is an old-fashioned farm celebration that has been 100 years in the waiting.
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