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Cromwell farm earns prestigious century label

In 1918, Charles and Martha Wilhelmena Anderson bought an 80-acre farm southeast of Cromwell from a private owner, not knowing they were starting a legacy. More than 100 years later, their great-grandson still owns the farm and is the fourth generation of the family to do so.

The current owners, Guy and LeeAnn Anderson of the Swede Lake Farm, were presented with a Century Farm sign at the Carlton County Fair on Friday, Aug. 19.

The previous family to own the farm when Charles and Martha were ready to retire was their son and daughter-in-law, Evert and Martha Elizabeth Anderson.

"They owned the farm for 19 years," Guy said. "They lived in the little house that is still on the property."

When Guy's father and mother, Richard and Joan, took over the farm, improvements were made.

"He developed the farm and built stalls in the barn," Guy said. "Like many farmers, he was quite the engineer. He could build what he needed."

Joan, who was present during the interview earlier this month, said Richard made a trip to a farm in southern Minnesota, where he took many measurements of a DeLaval milking parlor, and then he came home and built his own.

"There was a DeLaval sales representative that would stop and see dad," Guy said. "He got upset with dad because he was sure that dad had bought a milking parlor system from another company."

Joan had memories of those days on the farm.

"I grew up in the city," she said. "One day, Dick was driving school bus and I had to deliver a calf. I had asked what to do. He told me to grab the feet of the calf and help the cow by pulling it out. I learned quick. It was just something that I fell into."

Dick and Joan raised four children on the farm, two boys and two girls.

Another story Joan told was her fear when she saw her boys fighting.

"I was an only child," she said. "I didn't know that they weren't really mad at each other."

Joan said that she learned to love the farm.

"I enjoyed it," she said. "I loved making hay. Milking cows wasn't as much fun. And the kids always liked being on the farm. They would sleep in the barn."

When Guy and his dad shared the farming operation, they milked 65 cows, Guy said.

"After we bought the farm from them and they moved away, we cut back to 45 cows," he added. "With young stock, we had 100 head of cattle."

When the family was farming full-time, their farm always passed inspections and always produced high-quality milk.

"We improved the herd to the point where it was one of the top herds in the county," Guy said.

Things have changed since then. He explained that the farm now consists of 220 acres with 80 tillable acres, where they mostly raise hay. They no longer have animals.

"Not even a dog," LeeAnn said.

Guy said that his brother now makes the hay with his help.

The house that the Andersons live in was built in 1928 and has been remodeled.

"They used to use paper in the walls for insulation," LeeAnn explained. "When we were remodeling, we found a charcoal drawing of some people in the wall. No one knows who they are."

The lake next to the farm has always been something not many farm families have in their backyard.

"When the kids were helping to make hay and would get hot, they would go and jump in the lake to cool off between loads," Guy said.

Now the grandchildren, aged 21 down to 5, love coming to the farm and the lake.

"They would pitch in to help each other finish their chores so they could go swimming," LeeAnn added. "They love coming here for the camping and hunting."

When the last of their five kids were about to leave the farm, they advised their dad to get a "real job."

"That was in 1995," said Guy. "I went to the power company in Kettle River and started working part-time. I went full-time when the cooperative became Lake Country Power in 1997 or 1998."

Guy is retired now, as is LeeAnn, who had worked as a medical records coder at Mercy Hospital for almost 30 years.

"I appreciate retirement the most when we have a snowstorm," she said.

Guy and LeeAnn raised five children on the farm. Four are boys and there was one girl.

"They all live not far away," said LeeAnn. "They are all married. We have 13 grandchildren."

"This is such a welcoming place," Joan said. "The kids love it here."

The Andersons had a grandson, Kaleb, who died at the age of 3 from a genetic heart problem. Kaleb would be 17 now. His parents are Greg and Jennifer Anderson.

Each year they have a Fourth of July campout for family, and a memorial run/walk for Kaleb with the community. They have raised enough money for a playground by the pavilion in Cromwell.

As he thought about his family's lifetime on the farm, Guy concluded he was glad the kids grew up there.

"They learned how to work with their hands and do things," he said.

One son is a teacher in Milaca, LeeAnn said.

"He and his family love to come here," she said. "They call it paradise."