150 years and counting
Named as one of the Minnesota Farm Bureau’s sesquicentennial farms, the Krause family certainly has a story to tell.
The Krause family has been farming in Steele County since 1854, when their ancestor Christian Mathwig immigrated to Minnesota from Prussia, modern day northeast Germany, and married into a family, which owned tracts of farmland within Steele County.
Mathwig’s daughter Amelia then married Rudolph Krause, the grandfather of current owner Dave Krause. Her father, Christian, owned the farm from 1854 until 1890 while his daughter Amelia and her husband took it over from 1890 until 1921. Christian Mathwig died in 1922 and lived to be 92 years old.
In 1921 the farm passed to Amelia and Rudolph’s son Milton Krause and his wife Pearl Krause, who stewarded it into modern times. Milton and Pearl owned the farm from 1921 until 1981, while Pearl stayed on as owner for another 10 years after Milton passed away.
Then, in 1991, the farm passed into the hands of its current owners, Dave and Jean Krause. Originally the farm was owned by both Dave and his older brother Warren, whose wife Louise continues to hold a share in it. Warren passed away in 2008 at age 84.
Dave recalls that his family had been one of the first to have received electricity through Roosevelt’s REA, or the Rural Electrification Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which was charged with providing money to farmers in order to help get electricity to rural areas.
“This was before the war, and many of the people who didn’t get electricity at that time had to wait until after the war, I’d say about ‘46 or ‘47,” Dave explained. “My dad was still using a horse planter for a few years when he started. Then we got our first John Deere around ‘35, and before then we had an old Fordson tractor.”
Dave and his wife Jean say that farming has changed tremendously since their time on the farm. “They can get things done in a week that would have taken a month before. There’s so much more technology now,” Jean said. “You did everything in those days,” Dave added.
“A lot of the crops you raised you used,” he said, noting the farmers back then would grow crops such as oats to be used for their livestock feed. “Everybody had livestock, and everybody had a barn,” Dave recalled.
Still, Dave and Jean see the same hard work exhibited in modern farmers. “When you’re in the farming game you learn by experience, or from other people telling you from their experience,” Dave said. “It absolutely instills a better work ethic.”
Although they retain their fondness for the vocation, Dave and Jean have been renting their land since 1995. They also know the difficulty many farmers face in today’s climate. “If you started out by yourself today, you’d fail,” Dave opined.
Dave and Jean’s sons worked on the farm when they were younger, but they have since moved on to different careers, leaving Dave and Jean as the last in a long line of Steele County farmers. “This farm is about 66 acres,” Dave said after explaining that they’ve sold much of their original 310 acres to the state.
Jean, an avid artist and painter and a one-time school teacher, proudly displayed an acrylic rendition of their old homestead, which has since been sold. “We call this the home place,” she said while detailing some of the features of the painting, which was done by her in 1968 from an old aerial photograph.
In the painting one can see the old barn and the farmhouse, silos, a bit of the pasture and land off to the left, and Dave’s father Milton Krause on a tractor.
Dave still remembers farming with his family and all of the hard work that went into making a living back then. “I farmed together with my brother for all of those years,” he said. He also remembers the difficulty and expertise it took. “You had to be very careful and particular in farming.”
The Krause family planted crops such as corn, soybeans, oats, and hay, and maintained a dairy herd of Holstein cows, hogs and chickens. Sheep were also raised in the early years. Now their acreage is mostly consigned to corn, with the occasional year of soybeans.
“The cows were done in ‘92, and the hogs probably around ‘93,” Dave recalled. “Sometimes we had geese out there also,” Jean added.
Dave, who is 82 now, said that he was around 8 or 9 years old when he first started working on the farm, and worked there up until 1995 when they started to rent the land off. After that he worked as a postman delivering mail to rural routes.
“To be a farmer you really have to like what your doing,” Dave attested. “You’re the steward of the ground. We till and plant, but nature and God take care of the rest of it. We can’t make the rain come or the wind blow.”
Smiling, Jean agreed with her husband. “Weather keeps you humble, and a farmer has got to believe in God,” she said.
The Krauses remember that when the interstate came through things began to get a little more difficult. “Once they built the 35 freeway in around ’64, it got a little harder. That’s when things changed, and it took longer to get from here to there,” Dave said. “But you’ve got to have freeways.”
Now Dave and Jean Krause enjoy their retirement and have taken trips to Alaska, the east coast, Europe, and South Africa, where they saw corn fields that reminded them of home. “Sometimes when you’d see corn fields you’d think for a moment that you were in Iowa or something, but then there would be all this wildlife and nature,” Dave said.
Dave and Jean met at a singles square dance, and they still go dancing at least once a month. They remain involved in their church and help to deliver for Meals on Wheels once a week.
They are being honored as a sesquicentennial farm family by the Minnesota Farm Bureau. Their farm has been in the family for over 150 years and will also be honored at the Steele County Free Fair as a century farm.