September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

150 years and counting

Lenzens start sixth generation on farm
Ken (center) carries the milking units into the barn with two of his sons, William III (right) and Derek (left) on Jan. 2. Ken, William III and Derek milk together on their farm near Chaska, Minn. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY MISSY MUSSMAN
Ken (center) carries the milking units into the barn with two of his sons, William III (right) and Derek (left) on Jan. 2. Ken, William III and Derek milk together on their farm near Chaska, Minn. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY MISSY MUSSMAN

By by Missy Mussman- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

CHASKA, Minn. - When Ken Lenzen graduated high school, he didn't waste any time coming back to his family's farm.
"I was determined to farm," Ken said. "I always loved the cows. It was a natural fit stepping in."
Ken is the fifth generation on his family's farm in Carver County near Chaska, Minn. He and his wife, Barb, along with Ken's sons, William III (20), Derek (17) and Matthew (13), milk 50 cows and finish 900 hogs each year. Although Ken's mother, Doreen Lenzen, is retired from farming, she still stops in to lend a hand or check in with her son and grandsons.
"I am so proud," Doreen said. "It's wonderful that our family has kept it going."
Ken's great grandfather, Diedrich Lenzen, moved to the family's current farm in 1854 near Chaska, Minn. By 1859, Diedrich and his wife, Elizabeth, homesteaded the farm.
For 20 years, the two lived in a log cabin on the farm. In the 1870s, they built the house that is still standing today.
Almost 40 years later, Diedrich and Elizabeth sold their farm to their son, William I and his wife, Ida, in 1898.
That same year, there was a barn fire caused by a lantern. The Lenzens saved the cattle and other animals.
"That barn was a granary and barn combined," Ken said.
Later that year, the family rebuilt the barn and a separate granary and continued to farm.
William I passed away in 1918, leaving Ida and their eight children to continue the farm.
Another fire claimed the barn in 1941, but the Lenzens were persistent and rebuilt later that year.
"That barn they built in 1941 is the one we still have today," Ken said.
By 1946, Ida sold the farm to her son, William II Lenzen.
After William II was hurt in a farming accident, his son and Ken's father, Don, quit school at the age of 16 to come home and help on the farm.
In 1959, Don left to join the Army. During that time, William II sold the cows and raised heifers for two years.
"There were only three years this whole time where there were no cows on the farm," Ken said.
By 1962, Don returned home, immediately started to dairy farm again and married his wife, Doreen, in 1963.
"We kept it going," Doreen said.
That same year, the chicken barn was converted to a heifer shed on one side and a farrow-to-finish facility on the other side.
Don and William farmed in partnership, milking 32 cows in a stanchion barn and raising hogs until 1972.
Don added onto the dairy barn in 1979 to make the stanchions bigger. This allowed them to milk 38 cows and switch the bull's pen to a maternity pen.
"We were having problems with the smaller stalls," Ken said.
Almost five years later, Ken returned to the farm.
"He never left," Doreen said.
"Dad was really into the pigs then. If it wasn't for me, Dad would have sold the cows," Ken said. "He kept them for me."
Ken has been here ever since.
"I still like the cows," Ken said. "I like the whole aspect of it. I don't have to drive to work and I get to work through the challenges."
After milking with a step saver, Ken and Don put in a pipeline in 1987.
Ken and Don started a partnership in 1992, and it lasted until 1998, when Don and Doreen retired.
Before Don retired, Ken tore the rest of the calf pens out of the barn and put in nine tiestalls in 1997. That same year, they converted a shed into a heifer and calf barn.
"We left the existing stanchions," Ken said. "The reason we did nine tiestalls, was to focus on cow comfort."
The Lenzens are currently milking 50 cows and finishing hogs on their dairy farm.
In 2011, Ken married Barb after meeting her on Barb later quit her job to be full-time on the farm.
By 2012, Ken's son, William III, graduated high school and is now working full-time on the farm.
"I enjoy being with the cows," William III said. "I like to see if I can change what we get out of them. I like to watch a newborn calf grow up and come into the barn."
"William wanted the cows," Ken said. "I don't know if I would still be milking if he wouldn't have come back since I tore my meniscus a year ago in January."
William and Ken milk together with Derek. Derek's main responsibilities are milking, helping with the calves and helping with the pigs.
"I do a little of everything," Derek said.
Barb helps with the calves, prepares for milking and takes care of bookwork. Ken milks and works a lot with the hogs. William milks, feeds the cows and mixes the TMR, while Matthew helps where he can when he isn't in school.
"I like the cows," Matthew said.
Even though Ken is still farming with his family, he is already looking to the future.
"Derek is really interested in the hogs and William really likes the cows," Ken said. "I think in the long run they will compliment each other."
In 2012, the Lenzens were honored as a sesquicentennial farm being 150 years old, and the future is looking bright as William III, Derek and Matthew are remaining active in the farm as the sixth generation.
"Having six generations on a farm is a rarity," Barb said.
"I am proud of them," Ken said. "It was their choice. They want to be here. They didn't feel obligated because they were the sixth generation; they just wanted to do it."
After 150 years, the Lenzens still love farming.
"I am in God's country," William III said.
"I love it," Ken said. "What other business is this multi-generational? I was able to work with my grandpa, my dad and now my kids on the farm I was born and raised on."[[In-content Ad]]


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