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Boettcher Farm turns 100

The Boettcher family proudly accepts Century Farm title

By Fiona Edberg - Staff Writer | Sep 19, 2021

The Boettcher family’s farm recently celebrated its 100th birthday. Several members of the Boettcher family are pictured above at their farm. Left to right they are Kara Boettcher, John Gartner, Elanya Gartner, John L. Boettcher, Pat Boettcher, Harriet Skogen, Corrine Schreiber, and Kathleen Kottke.

100 years; that equates to approximately 36,500 days, plus a few extra if you account for leap years. On a century-old farm, that also equates to a lot of memories.

The Boettcher family, whose farm has been named one of Faribault County’s Century Farms this summer, demonstrates that fact. Sitting down to an interview with the Boettchers produces a colorful variety of family reminiscences.

Their family farm’s story starts in 1920, when John Boettcher, Sr. purchased 115 acres of land near Blue Earth from John Krinke, the previous owner.

Since then, the farm has been passed down through generations of Boettchers, from the original John Boettcher, Sr. to his son, Donald Boettcher, and finally to his grandson, current owner John L. Boettcher.

That legacy would not have been started without the determination and grit of John Boettcher, Sr. and his immediate family.

The story begins on Dec. 1, 1920, when John Boettcher, Sr. was 28 and Mabel Rajewsky, his wife, was 18. As a gesture to his new bride, Boettcher bought a buggy for their inaugural journey to the farm following their wedding celebration. However, especially wet weather resulted in muddy, impassable roads. John Boettcher, Sr. had no choice but to forego the traditional newly-wed journey home, and traveled alone to the farm on the wedding night.

“Mom came the next day by train to Marna,” explains Harriet Skogen, John Boettcher, Sr.’s daughter.

Despite an unexpectedly muddy start, the Boettchers had a very happy, if busy, life together on the farm.

“It was a good place to grow up on,” says Skogen.

“It was only about a half-mile walk to school,” she remembers.

Skogen also recalls childhood fun she shared with her four sisters, Marjie Peterson, Doris Fish, Ruth Hanke, and Corrine Schreiber, and her sole brother, Donald Boettcher.

“The hill in the driveway was good for coaster wagon rides and sledding,” Skogen says. “The trees behind the chicken house were a good place to make play houses and mud pies.”

The Boettchers had many children, but, Skogen laughs, “Donald was the favorite brother.”

Donald Boettcher inherited the farm from his father in the 1970s, and the farm reached its third generation of family ownership four years ago when it was passed on to Donald Boettcher’s son, John L. Boettcher.

Naturally, the farm has seen some changes over the course of a century.

“The produce was mostly for the livestock in the early days,” John L. Boettcher explains. Though his grandfather grew oats, hay, and corn, it seems the milking cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, and horses were his primary focus.

However, the family tried new things as time marched on. They grew sugar beets for a period in the early 1940s, as World War II brought a demand for the crop.

Soybeans became the new horizon in the next decade. “Farmers around here bought land for soybeans in the early 50s,” John L. Boettcher remembers. “They were something new around here.”

Now, the family sticks strictly to growing soybeans and corn. However, a small memoriam of the original hordes of livestock remains.

“We had 95 sheep at one point,” remembers Pat Boettcher, John L. Boettcher’s wife. “Now we have four.”

The farm has seen more changes apart from its produce and livestock. Technology has also evolved with the times.

“Dad (John Boettcher, Sr.) started with a team of horses. He got them as a wedding gift from grandpa,” says Corrine Schreiber, John Boettcher Sr.’s daughter. “He started out picking corn by hand,” she adds.

However, she is quick to clarify that John Boettcher, Sr. was not afraid to ride the wave of technological invention.

“When a new piece of technology came out, he’d be the first to get it,” says Schreiber. His children and grandchildren agree.

“Grandpa (John Boettcher, Sr.) started using a tractor around the mid-30s,” says John L. Boettcher.

“He owned his own combine, so we’d always do the threshing here,” adds Skogen.

Skogen remembers threshing as a neighborhood celebration. “The men would sit in the dining room planning,” she says. “Then, the women would come in and the children. We’d have ice cream. It was always a fun time, that threshing meet.”

Community was important to the Boettchers, who are a large family of many generations. John Boettcher, Sr. and Mabel Boettcher had six children, and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are extensive.

“The grandkids and great-grandkids are almost as numerous as the stars,” chuckles John L. Boettcher.

When asked who might inherit the farm next, Pat Boettcher forsees a fourth generation of ownership.

“We will probably give the acreage to our daughter (Kara Boettcher),” she shares.

Though the farm spans 320 acres now, John L. Boettcher explains much of the acreage is rented out currently. The family farms roughly 40 acres of it themselves.

They have seen some changes in farming as the 21st century rolls on.

“I think there are going to be a lot of big farms, and not as many small farms,” says Skogen, when asked where she sees the future of farming headed.

The family also sees changes in farming’s culture.

“Farming used to be more communal,” says Schreiber. “Farmers used to depend upon each other. When tractors came out, it became more independent; less of a social community.”

Nonetheless, the Boettchers still see value in the family trade.

“Farming is kind of our life blood,” says Pat Boettcher.

“It’s kind of what started everything,” adds John L. Boettcher.

Hopefully their family’s passion will be carried on for generations to come.