June 23, 2023 at 9:21 p.m.

Milking in history

Larson actively uses barn built in 1879

By Amy [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

KASSON, Minn. – Every day that Jim Larson milks cows in his 144-year-old barn is another moment of living history.
Larson milks 30 Holsteins and farms 500 acres of cropland raising corn, soybeans and alfalfa south of Kasson.
Larson’s great-great-grandparents, Peter and Martha Larson, emigrated from Norway in 1850. They initially settled in Wisconsin before moving to the current farm in 1869, a mere 11 years after Minnesota became a state.
According to a Post Bulletin article published April 30, 1963, Peter purchased the then 260-acre farm for just $3,000 dollars, making the price per acre about $11.54.
The whole family moved into a small log cabin that was on-site when they arrived.
In 1879, Peter’s son, Lars, built the barn that stands today. The three-story structure took about one year to build. The barn is set into a hill going down into the bottoms of Salem Creek. The side of the barn has an inscription stone with his initials and the year.
The barn features red-painted wood settled on a limestone base. The limestone was quarried from the place the barn sits and used to build the lower walls. All three levels of the barn are accessible on foot thanks to its hillside design. If one approaches from the middle of the farmyard, the hay mow looks like it is the first level.
Slightly down the hill, the entrance to the tiestall portion of the barn can once again be accessed at ground level.
Unique to this barn is the middle level floor which features several metal grates. At completion of milking, these grates can be opened and the manure pushed through them. The manure goes to the bottom level where it can be hauled out with a manure spreader.
A limestone retaining wall shelters the barn from the nearby Salem Creek.
Larson said he has been told that their unique barn is a Norwegian design, but he does not know more about the design than that.
In the aforementioned Post Bulletin article, the writer referenced R.E. Hodson, a retired superintendent of the Southern School of Agriculture experimental farm in Waseca, as saying that he believed, at that time, the barn was likely the only one of its kind in the state of Minnesota.
The house Larson and his wife, Kristie, live in was built a few years after the barn in 1883. Before that, Larson ancestors lived in the four-room cabin still standing on the property.
The Post Bulletin article also said that, in 1883, a tornado swept through the area, sucking a team of horses out of the barn and depositing them into a field half a mile away, unhurt.
According to the National Weather Service, three tornadoes occurred Aug. 21, 1883, which is likely the date the story occurred. The three tornadoes caused 40 deaths and 200 injuries. These tornadoes shed light on the need for more medical facilities in the area.
“After this disaster, the Mayo family and the Sisters of St. Francis realized the need of a hospital in Rochester,” the National Weather Service said. “They banded together to form St. Mary’s Hospital, which ultimately led to the creation of the Mayo Clinic.”
Tornadoes are not all the farm survived. It faced the Great Depression, sending a family member to war and the 1980s farm crisis.
Larson has never left the farm.
“I was the only son, so even if I wanted to do something else, it probably wouldn’t have (happened),” he said.
Larson said he remembers writing that he was going to be a farmer from the time he was in early elementary school.
Growing up, he spent time fishing in the creek, hunting in the woods and, of course, working on the farm.
“It seems like whenever Dad was milking, we were down in the barn helping,” he said.
Larson has seen the farm change. He remembers the transitions between can coolers and then later to the bulk tank in 1987. He farmed with his dad until he passed in 1998.
Larson credits the farm’s continued viability to fiscal responsibility through the years.
“We’re cheap,” he said.
Today, Larson farms with one full-time employee. He enjoys getting to be his own boss as a dairy farmer.
Larson milks his cows in the 23 tie stalls twice a day at 1:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. He chose this time years ago to accommodate his children’s schedules. Now, he and his wife’s two children are grown, but he still continues to milk at the same time.
Larson does not use a total mixed ration. He feeds corn silage, alfalfa hay and grain. He grains the cows inside when they are milked. Besides grain and corn silage, the cows get access to ample pasture and dry hay. He feeds his calves milk replacer and has been using homebred bulls for the past three decades.
Larson knows he will not be milking in the barn for many more years. Health issues and having no farm successor give him an end date. But for now, he will continue to milk another day forward in history.


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