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Ringkob farm reaches century mark

By: Ruth Eigenberg, Murray County News staff writer

March 12, 2003

Larry Ringkob, with his son, David, and grandsons Jack and Matthew, were awarded a century farm plaque at the Jackson County Fair.

Larry Ringkob, with his son, David, and grandsons Jack and Matthew, were awarded a century farm plaque at the Jackson County Fair.
This photo shows how the farm looked in 1916.

This photo shows how the farm looked in 1916.
This present building site and farm picture was taken just a few years ago. The house built in 1937 is on the left side.

This present building site and farm picture was taken just a few years ago. The house built in 1937 is on the left side.
This past summer, Larry and Karen Ringkob's farm was granted century farm status at the Jackson County Fair.
This past summer, Larry and Karen Ringkob's farm was granted century farm status at the Jackson County Fair.

"For five generations it's been in the family," commented Larry, also mentioning that he never thought of choosing a different occupation. "I always liked growing things," he stated.

So did his grandfather. Paul Ringkob bought the original family farm in 1902, after emigrating from Laerdal, Norway, to America in 1880. Then only 13, he bravely trekked over the mountains with his brother John, and boarded a ship headed overseas. A sister living in Osseo, Wisconsin, had sent the boys funds for the trip as well as offering them a place to live once they came to America.

Just a few years later, in 1884, both brothers set out for the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in Minnesota, and after awhile, went their separate ways. "John went to Jackson, and Paul went to Albert Lea," commented Larry. Paul found work on area farms and by digging wells before later moving to Jackson. Then he worked at the Harlow House Hotel by the railroad depot.

In 1899 Paul had gotten married, and took his new bride to live with John in section 22 of Enterprise Township. However, wanting a place of his own, he purchased 120 acres in section 26 of the township, and moved to the farm in 1902. The first thing he did was to dig a well, and then he borrowed money to put up a house and barn. Larry mentioned that lots of trees were planted, and that there was a very large garden. As was common in those days, there was also lots of livestock on the farm. A new barn was built for them in 1914.

Paul and his wife had four sons ? Freel, Severn, Thomas, and George. All four boys went on to graduate from high school in Jackson, which was a notable achievement. "It was an unusual thing, then. Most boys quit," stated Larry. During their schooling, the boys had stayed with their grandparents in town.

In 1929, eleven years after graduating high school, Larry's father Freel assumed operation of the farm when Paul retired. In 1937 he and his wife Neva built a large, more modern house on the property to accommodate their growing family of three children. Over time they made many other improvements. "Dad built everything except the machine shed," Larry said. In the early 1940's, Freel also purchased a threshing machine. Like in Paul's day, the farm stayed a busy place. Chickens, pigs, and cows were raised besides the crops. "I helped with all the chores," Larry mentioned. "It was just a lot of work."

One other task he remembers well is helping with the half acre strawberry patch. "I spent every morning picking strawberries out there for ten cents a box during the season," he stated. However, the effort paid off when his parents were able to buy a deep freeze freezer before most could. Larry called the strawberry business a "value-added" venture, which he considers an important part of farming.

Larry himself took over the farm operation in 1965, and he and his wife took their turn to raise their family on the farm. They have three sons. Twenty years ago Larry entered a value added venture of his own by selling seed for DeKalb. Though in 1992 he and his wife turned the farming over to their son David, Larry continues to help run the seed business. "That's all I do from November to February," he commented. "It's a business," he added. He and David also have an employee. "It's definitely a full time job," Larry mentioned. While the seed business had some tough years, things have been looking up lately, he said.

On the farming end, Larry also stays involved. "We have the advantage of helping when we retire," he said of farmers. He still enjoys running the combine in the fall. Laughing, he mentioned that he "couldn't handle it" if he "couldn't check things" in the fields.

Larry said his generation has seen the biggest change in the business. "It's lots more complicated now," he stated, adding that farmers must work many more acres today than they did years ago in order to make a living. The crops themselves have changed a lot too. "The genetics of this stuff has improved so much," he said. "That's the amazing part. The change is unreal," he stated. Farming has "changed more in the last thirty years than the last hundred," he said.

By the time David's two sons Jack and Matthew are old enough to be farmers, it's anybody's guess what else may be different. Perhaps they, the fifth generation to be part of a century farm, will see the greatest changes of all.


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