LESTER PRAIRIE, MN The Ide family of Lester Prairie has been recognized by the University of Minnesota for their commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture and agriculture production.
The family was officially recognized as McLeod County’s Farm Family of the year for 2019 in a ceremony Thursday at the annual Farmfest near Redwood Falls.
The Ide farm was started in 1969, when Larry and Bertha Ide bought an 80-acre piece of land to begin farming.
That first 80 acres consisted of 50 acres tillable, 20 acres of trees, and about 10 acres for buildings.
Larry purchased his first tractor, a used 1958 Ford 641, which he used for several years. It’s still a treasured member of his fleet of machinery, but now, he just uses it to visit the neighbors, and check on some of the more than 2,000 acres of fields that the family now farms. He calls it his “four-wheeler.”
“This tractor will be buried with me,” Larry, now 72 years old, joked.
The three-generation farming family shared some of their history after being named farm family of the year.
Larry and Bertha’s children, Nate and Beth Ann, grew up with farming in their blood.
The family had 40 head of cattle in a cow/calf operation, and a 50-sow feeder pig business, which eventually grew to 150 sows.
According to a release from University of Minnesota Extension, the Ides have been advocates for the agricultural industry for many years in McLeod County. Larry and Bertha were actively involved in the Pork and Porkettes organizations. Bertha was state director, Beth Ann was a county Pork Princess, and Nate was a county ambassador. Larry taught Sunday school and was on his church board of education for four years. He recently retired from the County Corn and Soybean Board.
In the 1990s, Nate worked for the National Pork Producers as the live animal site manager.
The family spent many hours grilling and serving thousands of pork chops all over the county, serving at town celebrations, get-togethers, and fairs.
“Everybody loves the smell of bacon, but nobody wants to smell it being raised,” Nate commented.
In 2000, when the pork business was facing low prices, they sold off the last of their pigs and concentrated fully on the grain business.
Over the years, they acquired another 160 acres of tillable land, and entered into rental agreements to bring the amount of land they currently farm to 64 fields totaling 2,000 acres.
Larry and Bertha’s grandsons, Mike and Phillip, work full-time jobs outside the farm, and then work additional time during the planting and harvesting times on the farm, as well.
Both of them have made a commitment to their family and farming. Mike graduated with a bachelor of science degree in ag business from South Dakota State University, and Phillip attended Hawkeye Community College and also received a two-year ag degree.
They are following in the footsteps of their father, Nate, who joined the family farming business in 1993. He also has a two-year ag degree in farm management.
Larry and Bertha are deeply committed to their church, and the church board of education.
Larry also served on the county corn and soybean board.
In addition to raising their family, and working the farm, until recently, Bertha was also a “cake maker,” providing cakes for weddings, graduations, and birthdays for many people.
Mike and Phillip laughed as they explained that “Grandpa is now retired, which means he only will drive the combine 18 hours a day.”
Nate is now running the farm. One example of his commitment to the farming community and the young potential farmers of the future is his commitment to help raise $144,000 toward an addition to the 4-H building on the Mcleod County Fairgrounds.
Many farmers rotate their crops between corn, soybeans and wheat, but in 2003, Larry and Nate added a fourth crop to their rotation sunflowers. They were looking for a crop that could tolerate a dry growing season, and the local soil. They found that sunflowers could handle drought-like conditions and continue growing. There’s also a local market for the seeds. The Ides still rotate sunflowers in every four years or so, but as with every crop, it has its own growing challenges, such as white mold and head rot. It also requires specialized equipment to harvest.
As a farm wife, Bertha spent her time “taking care of the young pigs and calves, making sandwiches for lunch, and meals for ‘the boys’ during the long working days.” She also baked brownies, cookies, and cakes.
Larry said the hardest time he has seen in farming is “right now.”
The hard economic times for the last four years, and the weather and land drainage issues have been so challenging that in order to get the farms planted, everyone has had to increase their equipment, labor and management skills, Larry noted. Some people have failed to plant three out of the last seven years. “In addition to the high cost of health insurance, it seems to be coming at us from all sides,” he added.
Larry attributes their longevity in marriage and farming to “The good Lord, and good neighbors.”
Bertha, Nate, and the boys wholeheartedly agree.