Farming has been in Leon Pesina’s family for generations, as has his 165-acre farm northeast of Biscay. It’s been part of his family for so long that it will be recognized for 150 years of operation during the McLeod County Fair next week. The ceremony is at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, at the Indoor Show Arena.
“There’s not that many farms that make it to 150 years,” he said.
To earn this recognition, farms must be under continuous family ownership for at least 150 years and still be in operation, as well as be at least 50 acres or more.
The 150-year-old farm was first acquired by Leon’s great-great-grandfather, Anton Pesina, in 1869.
“It originally was a military land grant from President James Buchanan,” he said. “That was in 1858, but my great-great-grandfather bought it in 1869.”
When Anton moved onto the land, he brought his son Anthony, who was 18 years old at the time. Anthony took over in 1905 and began the line of succession to Leon’s grandfather in 1915, his father in 1948, and then Leon to control in 1983.
It was always his plan to go into farming.
“I went into the army when I was 17, and my plan was already to take it over,” Pesina said. “But things just didn’t work out until after I got out of the service and went to work for 3M. I stayed there for 33 years, but in between I did buy the farm from my folks. I was running it in between. Then about 18 years ago, I started renting it out here and there.”
He currently leases out 120 acres of the farm.
A plat book from 1898 listed the farm originally at 250 acres, which, Leon said, was “pretty big for that time.” His grandfather Anthony had three brothers, and each time one grew of age they were given a farm for themselves.
“One ended up north of Hutchinson and one south of Silver Lake. My grandfather and his twin brother actually split the farm,” Leon said. “My grandfather got this half (the land where the farm stands), and his brother got the other half. When I bought the farm from my folks, it was 142 (acres). Then I bought 30 acres off a neighbor’s farm and traded some other land. That’s how I ended up at 165.”
The layout of the farm changed as well. The original house stood near the road on the opposite side of a small creek that ran through the yard, but has since been demolished. A new house was built further back on the property.
“Those were the biggest changes to the farm,” Leon said.
Nowadays the farm mainly produces cash crops, but he still keeps 15 head of beef cattle in the barn. In the past there were milk cows, pigs and chickens.
Will the farm stay in the family for another 50 years? Nobody knows, but Leon’s son, Mike, plans to keep the tradition alive.
“He lives a couple miles away. He plans on taking it over,” Leon said.
For more information on sesquicentennial farm families around the state, visit fbmn.org.