150-year-old farm, top seniors spotlighted
WILLMAR -- Sig and Ardyce Lundgren can't go anywhere at the Kandiyohi County Fair without running into someone they know -- usually a relative.
"That's the trouble with living here your whole life," Sig Lundgren said Thursday, laughing. "You know most everybody."
It makes sense, after all. Both Sig and Ardyce grew up in the area and donated much of their time to the community.
Yesterday, during a special senior citizen's program at the fair, the community gave back to them in celebration of their 150-year-old farm.
"It's really unusual," Sig said of the accomplishment. "But it was drilled in me (to farm the land) since before I can remember. As soon as I could talk, I think."
Unlike many other sesquicentennial farms, where the original family still owns the land but rents it out to other farmers, Sig and Ardyce come from a long line of ancestors who worked the farm, six miles outside Belgrade.
The family farm started in 1860 with Anfin Thorson, Sig's great-grandfather. It took Thorson three years to get from Stord, Norway, to Minnesota, but when he arrived, he purchased the farmland from the government, and it's been a family affair since.
Sig and Ardyce have been farming the land since 1965. Since Sig only has one sister, it was up to him to keep the farm in the family. But he was happy to continue the tradition, since - as he says - he "always enjoyed milking the cows."
The couple, who celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary this year, haven't always had an easy life on the farm, however. When they got married, they "didn't have a darn thing," Sig said.
"We're not fancy people," Ardyce said in agreement. "We make do with what we have."
After a fire in 1999, the Lundgrens had to switch gears from a dairy farm to beef. Today, Sig still raises feeder cattle and grows corn, soybeans and sometimes wheat, "just to switch it up a little." This fall, though, he'll be handing over the reigns to his daughter, Krista Lautenschlager, and her husband, Alex.
For Sig and Ardyce, that means moving out of the 1921 home they've lived in for most of their life and buying a house in town. But Sig doesn't plan to stop working anytime soon, since there will always be plenty of work for him to do on the family farm.
"I'll still help the kids out, I'm sure," he said. "That's what a farm is - it's a family."
His wife had different plans for the big move, saying the two will finally get some much-needed time to themselves once the farm is in their children's hands.
"We've never been alone," Ardyce said. "I'm not giving anyone our address (in town) for the first month!"
Both Sig and Ardyce agreed that what the fair board had done to recognize their farm yesterday meant a lot to them.
"Today was a real big honor," Sig said after the program. "The biggest honor of our life."
After thinking about it for a minute - and receiving quite the look from his wife - he added, "Well, maybe besides getting married."
Thursday was senior citizen's day at the fairgrounds, and also honored during the special program yesterday were three other century-old family farms, as well as the 2010 Outstanding Senior Citizens, Bernice Grabber-Tintes and Robert "Bob" Bonawitz.
Both recipients have strong volunteering and community service backgrounds. Grabber-Tintes, of Belgrade, serves an instrumental role each year in "Women's Event" at Ridgewater College, which encourages women to attend the school, especially non-traditional women. She also volunteers as an usher at the Barn Theatre in Willmar and has committed herself to helping the Shelter House, which assists battered women.
"Kandiyohi County has just been a wonderful home for me," Grabber-Tintes said as she accepted the award yesterday. "Minnesotans, you're my family, so thank you very much."
Bonawitz, of Willmar, also has a long list of volunteer experience, both in the community and in the state.
He served as a board member on the Minnesota Zoological Board to make animal and plant education available for Minnesota citizens. He was president of the Willmar Noon Lions Club and a committee member of the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS), which helped the community develop clean energy solutions. He also mentors several young people at the Assembly of God Church.
"I moved to Willmar 10 years ago to retire, but I realized retirement wasn't for me," Bonawitz said at the program yesterday afternoon. "So I thought, 'What could be better than volunteering?'"
Today, the fair continues with a diverse line-up of events, including a ventriloquist show at 3 and 5 p.m. on the Heritage Square Stage, a 4-H showcase at 3 p.m. at the 4-H stage, free All American Lumberjack shows at 4, 6 and 8 p.m., and the band Killer Hayseeds at 7 p.m. at the Heritage Square Stage.