Swanson century farm still boasts original house, barn, granary
WORTHINGTON — The newly designated Swanson Century Farm in Section 32, Indian Lake Township actually began as the Larson family farm, originally settled in 1917 by Glen Swanson’s maternal grandfather Emil Larson.
Though little is known of him or his wife, Alice — including what brought them to rural Nobles County — land records show they purchased a 160-acre parcel they had previously been renting and owned it for 24 years. While there, the couple raised two daughters — Florence and Gladys.
Florence married a local man and they moved north to Grand Rapids, and Gladys married Carl.
“Dad came from Illinois, moved up north and then came down here,” said Glen Swanson, who with his wife, JoAnn, are the current owners of the family farm.
“He worked for the Ford garage … and then he got a job out here working for Grandpa and married the boss’s daughter, “ Glen shared with a laugh. “They got married in the house here.”
That was in 1936.
“They did that years ago,” JoAnn said. “They had a reception here, too.”
The original house on the farmstead still stands, though it has been altered and added onto over the years. Gone is the open, wrap-around porch that was once along the home’s south and east side. In its place is a smaller, enclosed entryway.
“We raised the house and put a new basement under, and then added a double stall garage and the kitchen,” said JoAnn. That was one of two additions; the second is on the north side of the home.
The original portion of the home, along with the barn and the granary, are the oldest structures still standing on the farm. Each are believed to be more than 100 years old.
When Emil and Alice owned the farm, they had cows and horses and grew corn, oats and hay.
“Soybeans weren’t around then,” shared Glen. “Soybeans were brought here for hay, not beans.”
Emil and Alice moved to Worthington when Carl and Gladys married. Emil died at age 64, right around the time his grandson, Glen, was born.
When Carl and Gladys took over the farming operation, they still had horses as well as pigs, cattle and chickens. They grew corn, oats and soybeans.
“I can remember threshing,” Glen said, adding that when he was 10 or 12 years old, he was assigned to drive the tractor for bundle racks. Combines, he said, came out at just the right time, saving him from the more laborious work of threshing.
“There’s been a lot of changes in agriculture in the last 100 years — 75 years, anyhow,” Glen said. Back then, it was all work and no play.
“We never got too far away from home,” he shared, adding that he had one younger sister, Ruby.
Growing up, Glen had considered going into other professions, but he was always drawn back to the farm. With the exception of five months active duty in the National Guard, the farm has always been his home.
It was while in the National Guard that Glen met JoAnn, a Luverne native, one evening in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he had Guard duty. When they married in 1966, they moved to the Swanson farm in rural Indian Lake Township.
Carl and Gladys built a new home a mile northeast of the homestead, and Carl continued to farm alongside Glen until his death at age 80.
In the years that Glen and JoAnn have farmed, they converted from a cow-calf operation to raising feeder cattle. They continued to raise beef until about 15 years ago, when the price of corn shot up to $5 per bushel.
For several years they also continued raising hogs, but the chickens JoAnn inherited from her mother-in-law didn’t stick around for too long after their marriage.
“I didn’t like them,” JoAnn said. The chickens eventually moved to Carl and Gladys’ new place.
In addition to raising livestock and crops, Glen and JoAnn raised three children — Kristi, who lives in Round Lake; Kevin, who lives on Carl and Gladys’ homestead and farms with Glen; and Melanie, who lives in the Twin Cities.
Today, the farm is void of livestock, with the Swansons concentrating their work in grain production. They grow corn and soybeans on the original quarter section, and in the years since Emil and Alice owned the land, they’ve added three additional, adjoining quarters, along with an 80 and a 40-acre parcel.
Kevin is transitioning into the operation and owns half of two of the parcels with Glen and JoAnn. He began farming with them part-time 21 years ago, and full-time for the past 15 years.
The Swansons are proud to have seen the land settled by Glen’s grandparents remain in the family for 100 years, but Glen is doubtful it will remain in the family for another century.
“It’s hard to say about the future,” said JoAnn. “There’s nobody to take over after Kevin.”
“You should never say never, but it’s not going to make 200 years, I don’t think,” added Glen. “We’ve only got one granddaughter.”