Dakota County proud of its Century Farms

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 15, 2012 - 5:23 PM

Dakota County has two new Century Farms. More than 9,100 have been recognized statewide since the program began in 1976.

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Jon Kuhn, daughter Brynley and wife, Andrea, who is expecting, live on the farm his great-great-grandfather bought in 1912. Kuhn is the fifth generation on the land.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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There's pride in Jonathan Kuhn's voice when he talks about the farm that's been in his family's name since 1912. Although he works a second job to help provide for his wife, Andrea, their 2-year-old daughter and soon-to-be-born son, farming is all he's ever wanted to do, Kuhn said.

The Kuhn family farm in Farmington is one of two in Dakota County named this year as Century Farms by the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the State Fair. Overall, 144 farms were named Century Farms in 2012.

Century Farm families receive a commemorative sign and a certificate signed by State Fair and Farm Bureau presidents and by Gov. Mark Dayton. Since the program began in 1976, more than 9,100 farms have been recognized as Century Farms.

"We like to do it because farming and agriculture in Minnesota is such a strong tradition, and recognizing that is not only important to farmers but to all the citizens of Minnesota," said Kristin Harner of the Farm Bureau.

Kuhn farms 290 acres where he raises corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and finishes steers. The farm got its start in 1912 when his paternal great-great-grandfather, Phillip, bought the land.

The land was rented for a short time when Kuhn's great-grandfather died but when his great-grandfather's sons became teenagers they worked the land. Kuhn's father, Norb, bought a neighboring farm, where he raised his family, but when Kuhn's grandfather, also named Norb, died in 2002, Jonathan Kuhn bought the family farm from the estate.

"The farm itself, the only thing that changed is we built a new house last year," said Kuhn. He said the old farmhouse that everybody lived in was burned down by the fire department for training purposes.

Kuhn works full time at Malt-O-Meal in Northfield - 12-hour shifts, three days one week, four days the next. That job gives him the health insurance he probably couldn't afford working the land. It also affords him only three or four hours of sleep some nights. But it's worth it, he said.

"I always wanted to farm," he said. "We've got the farm to pay for, got the house to pay for. Providing for Andrea and Brynley. I don't always do it for myself. If that's what I feel is best for our family, that's what matters.

"People ask why you work that hard. My brother is into computers. That's the thing he loves. I couldn't sit behind a desk. If I was told to sit in a room for eight hours, I couldn't do it."

Kuhn enjoys working with his dad, who farms about 600 acres. And Brynley, even at age 2, seems to be growing up to be a little farmer girl. She's ridden along with her dad on the tractor. The only book she wants read over and over again? "Farm Tales."

Even when the old farmhouse was burned down, she didn't notice the big red firetrucks or the firefighters.

"Just cows, barn, barn, cows," her dad said.

Dean and Geralyn Odette own the other Dakota County farm named a Century Farm this year. Dean's great-grandfather Edward Odette bought the land in Northfield in 1911. Odette's father farmed the land, with hogs and a small dairy operation, and Dean helped out as a youngster. He and his wife bought the 80-acre parcel in 1997. They rent it to another farmer who grows soybeans, oats and corn.

Their children have other careers, Odette said, but he hopes the land stays in the family.

"I hope one of the kids can afford to buy it," he said. "It would be nice to keep it going. We'll see. Time will tell."

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284

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