In nearly 40 years of identifying Minnesota’s oldest farms still in operation, officials from the state’s Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota State Fair recognize the important role families play in the agriculture industry.
The two organizations began the Century Farms program in 1976 as a way to honor families who have owned their farms for at least 100 years. More than 10,000 farms in Minnesota are now certified.
“The root and heart of what we do has always been about agriculture, so recognizing these farms is really important to us,” says Brienna Schuette, marketing and communications manager for the Minnesota State Fair. “We want to show how vital these families are to the state fair and why we continue this program.”
A family’s history on a farm is, indeed, critical to the success of that particular operation. But equally important, these Century Farm families have adapted and embraced new technologies to ensure the future of their farms.
Miron Dairy And Crop Farm
Through automation, advanced technology and even the advent of webinars, life on the Miron Family Dairy and Crop Farm in Hugo has changed in many ways since it was established in 1887.
What has remained the same is its focus on family. Placed on the Century Farms list in 1987, the farm is now owned by Fran and Mary Ann Miron. Fran Miron was one of nine children who grew up on the farm owned by his parents, Marcel and Clara Miron. Now, a couple of his six children are helping on the farm.
“We have very strong agrarian roots,” Miron says, “and there is interest in agriculture by all of our kids.”
This new generation of Mirons is helping to ensure the dairy and crop operation is running efficiently with the use of today’s technology. Smartphones, for instance, are nearly as important as milking machines.
Other advances have made a big difference as well, such as milk sampling for quality, animal health and pregnancy.
Conventional seeds have reduced reliance on chemical applications and increased crop production while using fewer resources. Milking equipment now provides more information on cow production and milk quality to fine tune management decisions.
“I don’t know if it’s lessened the total work,” Miron says, “but it’s lessened the type of work, and in some cases it has allowed us to focus more on animal care and management. That has allowed us to improve production over time.”
Sunnyslope Angus Farm
As Phil Abrahamson remembers it, he was around six years old when he first drove a tractor.
It was on his father’s farm, established in Lanesboro by his great-grandfather in 1863. Abrahamson was an only child, and he was eager to help with farm chores.
“My dad had a mechanic in town weld on an extension clutch pedal so I could reach it,” says Abrahamson, who turned 75 in March 2015 and now works on the family farm – Sunnyslope Angus – with his wife, Ruth, and daughter and son-in-law, Julie and Keith Ekstrom.
Much has changed since Abrahamson was a boy on the farm, which was added to the Century Farms list in 1982. In particular, he says, the establishment of the Angus Herd Improvement Record in 1959 took the cattle-breeding industry to a new level.
In the decades since then, computers, DNA testing and other technological advances have made a significant difference in efficiency and breeding practices.
“We’re producing a much better animal today than ever before,” Abrahamson says, “and we’ll produce an even better one in the future.”