Not much has stayed the same in the past 50 years at Ide Grain Farm, south of Lester Prairie, but a few constants stand out for McLeod County’s Farm Family of the Year.
“As a family, we’ve been working to try and better agriculture in McLeod County,” said Larry Ide. “If you lived on this farm, you worked on this farm.”
The story starts in 1969 when he and Bertha were married.
“I was thinking of a house in town, and he was thinking of a farm,” Bertha said. “We were two city kids, and our parents weren’t farmers.”
However, Larry had grown up spending summers out in the countryside with grandparents and uncles who were farmers. When farmland south of Lester Prairie came up for sale, an uncle wanted the farm land but didn’t need the house. Larry split the land with him, and he and Bertha moved into the half with the residence. At that time, the purchase was cheaper than it would have been to buy a house in town.
For Larry, the farmland was an opportunity to work for himself.
“I’m very independent,” he said.
“He’s got a lot of English determination in him,” said his son, Nate. “And bullheaded German.”
The land came with 80 acres, and Larry and Bertha started with a 40-head Hereford cattle operation along with 50 sow feeder pigs. The family added a farrowing facility, which grew the sow herd to 150 head.
Nate, who was born in 1972, grew up working on the farm.
“There isn’t much I haven’t seen,” he said, noting he still has calluses on his hands from 25 years ago.
“Like most farm kids, he grew up doing work alongside mom and dad,” Bertha said. “If you went to town looking for a job and said you’re a farm kid, you were hired (in those days).”
Daughter Beth Ann helped out around the property as well. If Bertha was helping with chores or working part time in town, Beth Ann would help with work in the house or preparing meals.
In the 1980s, volunteerism came to the forefront of Ide Farm. Larry was often involved with the McLeod County Pork Producers and helped to provide pork for local events and celebrations. If 4-H needed something, he was among a group of farmers who saw to it.
“There were times myself and another pork producer did interviews at KDUZ,” Larry said. They talked about the economy, farming and promoted the industry.
Bertha served on the state board for the Pork Producers and remembers serving pork burgers at Farmfest. Beth Ann was a county pork princess and Nate was a county pork ambassador.
“Volunteering was our day off,” Bertha said.
The grain side of the operation eventually grew to 300 acres, and in 1991 the sows were sold and their facilities were used for pigs. Bertha also launched a cake baking business, and a house addition provided space for the undertaking.
Nate went to school in Iowa and double majored in swine and farm management. He spent time working in the area but wanted to move north again.
“At the time, in 1993, I wanted to get back to Minnesota, and that’s when the boys were born,” he said. “(The year) was a lot like this year — very late crops, light test weight.”
He joined the business that fall.
The last of the pigs were sold in 2000, which meant Nate’s boys, Mike and Phillip, grew up working on the grain side of the operation.
“They missed out,” Nate said.
Today the farm has 2,000 acres, 240 of which are owned. Of Ide’s 22 landlords, 19 are within three miles of home. Larry and Bertha still live on the property. Beth Ann lives with her family in Stewartsville and Nate lives minutes away as he continues to work full time on the operation, and as an Agrigold seed dealer.
Larry taught Sunday school and served on his church’s board of education for several years. He recently retired from the county corn and soybean board, and quipped that it’s now Nate’s turn to take over volunteering.
Nate helped organize a major project at the McLeod County Fairgrounds last year. A group of 80 local businesses and individuals came together to raise $144,000 to expand 4-H show space with an addition to the show arena that in turn freed up more room in other buildings. The project aimed to boost the 4-H program, improve safety and make the facilities more attractive to visitors.
Over the years, the family has had its share of difficulties. Most rural Minnesotans are familiar with the 1980s farm crisis, and low commodity prices mixed with rising costs are contributing to growing challenges today. In the 1970s, the family struggled with disease in the hog operation that came just as it expanded.
“You need the good Lord to help you in your operation every day,” Larry said. “You constantly get tested on your faith.”
Both Mike and Phillip completed agricultural degrees and help out on the farm today, making Ide Grain Farm a three-generation operation. Everyone working on the farm has bought in with an investment in equipment or land.
“We’re proud to have three generations of farmers in 50 years,” Bertha said.