The 2014 ceremony was held Friday, August 22, at 4 p.m. in the Colorado Building at the State Fair in Pueblo to celebrate nineteen new Centennial Farms! The ceremony included a special presentation to honor the first-ever Centennial Farmer, Lyman Edgar, whose family farm in Rocky Ford became a Centennial Farm in 2009.
Five years ago, Lyman Edgar stood on stage with relatives as their family farm in Rocky Ford was recognized as a 2009 Colorado Centennial Farm. Founded in 1905, the Edgar Family Farm began as a sugar beet farm before later switching to growing hay corn, wheat, oats, and barley, as well as serving as grazing land for cattle, among other things. Born in 1914, Lyman Edgar joins us this year at the ceremony to celebrate his 100th birthday and be inducted as History Colorado’s first Centennial Farmer. Today Lyman still lives just down the road from his family’s farm, honoring his family’s legacy with every weekend jaunt he makes to the historic property.
In the early 1880s Pietro Yantorno, known later as Pete Center, migrated to Colorado from Calabria, Italy. After working on the railroad for several years, he bought his farm in Adams County in 1889. Growing celery, cabbage, lettuce and other vegetables, the family went into truck farming and marketed their produce at Denargo Market next to the old 15th Street viaduct in downtown Denver. The family farmed vegetables until 1950 when Pietro’s son August and his sons Pete, Frank Sr. and Carl constructed a set of greenhouses and switched to flower farming, mostly cut carnations. During the 1970s oil crisis, Frank and his cousin Paul transitioned from cultivating cut flowers to growing finished bedding crops in order to make a higher profit and reduce heating costs. Several buildings from 1927, including the main house, garage and barn, are still in use, as are the original greenhouses and grading room. Originally 27 acres, the land was reduced in size due to road construction, but today Frank Yantorno and sons Brian and Kenny continue to run a welcome bit of color and freshness in an increasingly busy, industrial area. Center Greenhouse now sells bedding plants, ornamental grasses and herbs nationally.
Brown Family Ranch in Mosca, founded 1897
In 1897 James Martin Brown, Sr. and his family leased 160 acres in Alamosa County from the Mosca Milling and Elevator Company, and in 1914 the family bought the property, which they later expanded to its current size of 480 acres. They started with small grains, hay and potatoes, as well as livestock, including cattle, sheep, hogs and horses, then added omn 1907 alfalfa and attempted sugar beets in the early 1940s. Today the 1887 irrigation ditch still runs, and several of the buildings from the 1950s, including a milking barn, a calving and lambing shed, a chicken house and a box car, are still in use. The land, currently owned Jimmy and Terry Brown, was passed down to them by James Martin, III. Jimmy and Terry continue to raise cattle, sheep and hay at the ranch today.
Smith Ranch in Hasty, founded 1914
In 1914 George Smith began homesteading a plot of ground near Hasty in Bent County. Upon arriving on his land, he exclaimed, the “grass was thigh high and the prairie was beautiful.” George, his wife and four children lived in a one-room wooden shack with a dugout next to it, and five more children would be born on the homestead. The family raised crops of wheat and corn until the drought came but also raised hogs, horses and mules. As the hardships increased, George acquired land from neighbors, who’d had enough and were leaving town. George stubbornly remained, but eventually prospered. After returning from WWII, George’s son Mahlon started a ranch on adjoining land and eventually inherited that of his father as well. He, his wife and 16 children lived in the old 1917 Shamrock School house and expanded the original homestead. They had 200 head of cattle and sometimes dryland crops. Mahlon’s son Jeff, who always enjoyed working the ranch with his father, now runs the ranch, which has increased to 6500 acres. A clever entrepreneurial thinker, Jeff has supplemented the cattle ranch with a custom hay business, a good idea in times of drought and high feed prices.
Kit Carson County
Gramm Homestead Ranch in Stratton, founded 1899
In 1899, Christian Gramm began homesteading 554 acres of grass, wheat and feed. The Gramms built a sod house in 1904, and today many of the early buildings are still in place, including the adobe-built farmhouse, barn, shed, garage, shop and water tank house. Farming was done with horses, as was the wheat thrashing and grain hauling until the family purchased a Model-T Ford that helped. Today the ranch is 3500 acres, where Red Angus cattle, corn, wheat and hay are grown and raised. Since Christian, ownership has passed through the men of the family, from Christian to his son William, from William to his nephew Edmund, and from Edmund to his son Frederick, who operates the land today with his wife Sheryl and their children Courtney, Chris, Ben and Gretja.
In 1906 Francisquita and Leonardo Chavez bought 15 acres in Las Animas County near Weston. The property passed onto their son Rosendo and wife Delfinia, who in turn gave it to their son Joe and his wife Annie, who had nine children, including Eugene, who owns it today along with his son Vernon. Over the years, the family has raised alfalfa and orchard grass, for hay, as well as livestock, primarily cattle, but in recent years they have given up their herd, though they do lease the land for grazing. Though the family lives an hour away, they spend at least one day a week at the farm. Those days are a joy to Eugene who works hard to keep the farm going despite drought conditions of the past several years. In good years the family still grows alfalfa and orchard grass at the beautiful setting along the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway and the Purgatory River.
In the early 1900s Russian Germans George and Alice Ament began farming near Fruita, but relocated to Iliff in Logan County in 1914 when they purchased 502 acres from a sheep rancher who didn’t like the new North Sterling Irrigation District. George and his brothers divided the land equally amongst themselves. Raised near the Volga River in Russia, George used his farming experience to grow sugar beets, corn, alfalfa and wheat after breaking the ground using a team of horses. George and Alice first lived in a sod house with their three daughters, one son, and baby on the way, but in 1918 they built a new house, barn and windmill after acquiring 160 acres of adjoining land through the new Homestead Act. A few years later they added a chicken house and garage, and all of the historic buildings still stand on the farm today. Over the years, in addition to crops, they raised cattle, dairy cows and chickens, and today the farm is more than 2,000 acres. George and Alice’s legacy is carried on by grandson Donald, who became well known in local politics after serving as Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture from 1999 to 2007. These days Donald spends his time farming the land, working to keep the century-old farm alive for another hundred years.
Originally from the Plateau Valley in Iowa, Jess Hittle bought 289 acres of land near Collbran in 1914. Jess and his wife Alice formed a cow and calf operation, raising hay and grain as well. Their son, Ray and his wife Helen bought the ranch on December 26, 1951, and their son Less and wife Loi bought the ranch on December 24, 1980. Several buildings from 1923 are still in place and in use, including the log farm house, chicken coop, gas house, milk barn and horse barn. Today the 289 acres on Buzzard Creek Road are still run by Les and Loi where today hay is the major crop.
On April 7, 1914, Peter Wickstrom took over a relinquishment of an original homestead in Orchard. After his death, Bertal and Edna Wickstrom continued to expand the operation, and in 1965 Donald and Patricia returned to the farm as did their sons Cary and Todd after college. Now Cary’s daughters, Lara and Leigha, along with Leigha’s husband Andrew Martens, are involved with the agricultural operation for the 5th generation, growing wheat, mullet, corn and feed cattle on the 320 acres.
In 1901 German immigrants Claus and Maria Paulsen and their seven children moved from Nebraska to Prowers County and bought the original 320 acres of their farm. They immediately set to work building a barn, outhouse, and farmhouse, which is known in the area for its historic foursquare style that was prevalent in Colorado during the first few decades of the 20th century. Additionally, the farm is a great example of a new type of irrigated farming replacing the dryland farming during the second homestead era. The Paulsens successfully farmed alfalfa and wheat, and Claus handed down the farm to his son Rudolf, who later gave it to his son Claus H. Paulsen. Claus’ wife Linda is the current owner of the now 240-acre farm, which still produces alfalfa. Paulsen Farm’s house and farm structures are listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties and the National Register of Historic Places.
In her hand-written memoirs, Ruby Moreland tells of a time when she and her brothers had to hold onto the fence crossing their pasture: “The dust was so thick we could barely see their hands in front of their faces.” Ruby’s grandfather Thomas Carter first began homesteading their land in Pueblo County in 1909. The Carter’s had one of the first wells in the area and neighbors came from miles around to fill their barrels, sometimes waiting for hours for the wind to blow and power the pump. “I guess the water is a little hard…but it certainly seemed softer compared to what we had been drinking in Kansas,” Ruby told the Pueblo Star Journal in 1962.
The family went to church and school in a buggy pulled by a white horse named Rusty, but using wagons and buggies meant long travels. During the Dust Bowl era, homesteaders made their way up to the Arkansas River, a three-day journey, to collect firewood. On one such trip, Thomas Carter dozed on his journey home, laying his pipe beside him. While he slept, the wagon jostled, and he awoke to find it was on fire, but, left with no options, all he could was unhitch the horses and stand aside as the wagon and supplies burned. Getting through these hardships took humor and determination.
Today the land is owned by descendant Sheila Norton whose family raised cattle, pinto beans and milo before putting the land, now 320 acres, into conservation. Both Thomas and Francis Carter are buried in Highland Cemetery, located on the ranch.
In 1913 August Lueth was granted a homestead patent for 160 acres in Sedgwick County. Eventually the land eventually passed onto his son Walter and then to his children Beverly, John, Robert and Betty. Betty married Adam John Walter in 1960, and the couple settled on the homestead and later purchased it. They grew dryland winter wheat and small grains, but also ran cattle on the farm. Later an interest in horses lead to raising and training thoroughbred racehorses. Over the years several buildings have been put in place, including a 1919 barn, 1926 storage shed, 1930s garage and granary and a 1948 ranch house. The land was worked by Betty and Adam, until he passed away in January of this year. Adam would be thrilled to see the farm recognized; he was very proud of the land and his family’s accomplishments.
Seeking a new life in Colorado, Marshall and Julie Scott and their family arrived in Akron on December 14, 1914, on an immigrant train from LaCygne, Kansas. They were one of five families of relatives and friends who came out together and homesteaded in the Lindon community of Washington County. The Scott family brought with them a wagon, two horses, a walking plow, Hedge wood posts, household effects and probably a cow. Within days of arriving, Marshall filed for the homestead, and the family lived in Akron, reportedly in a tent, until the two-room homestead house was ready in May 1915. The family dug a forty-foot water well, which still provides water today, 100 years later. By 1917, 110 acres had been cultivated for raising barley, beans, cane, as well as possibly hogs. In addition to building the house, the family constructed a granary, cellar and chicken house. When they arrived in Colorado, Marshall and Julie has four kids, Pete, Mollie, Raymond and Robert, and later Inez was born on the homestead. Marshall and Julie lived out their remaining lives on the homestead. In 1933 Raymond got married and established a home on adjoining land until his passing in 1969. Raymond’s son Phillip married in 1969 and was involved in the family land until his passing in 2007. In addition to farming, the Scotts had a herd of Hereford livestock with a calf-cow operation. The livestock brand, the VS, was registered in 1938 and remains in the family with current owner Lois Scott. Today, even some of those hedgewood poles that were brought out in 1914 remain in the pasture fence rows today.
Just after Etta and Elmer Ball were married on March 18, 1914, Groveland, Kansas, they rounded up their team of gray horses, a saddle horse, a walking hand plow, a harrow, a four-wheeled grain bed wagon, a hundred fence posts, some furniture and the family organ, and boarded an emigrant railroad car destined for Briggsdale, Colorado. Etta’s mother gave them a milk cow, and Elmer’s father gave them four dozen Brown Leghorn hens, which kept him busy collecting eggs on the ride to Colorado. Over the next fifty years, they weathered many adversities, including the Dust Bowl and drought, but as Etta explained, “We had planned, prayed and were determined to make this our little grey home in the west.” During the next half century, they transformed their homestead into a full ranch, where they raised eight children. Known as the Lazy S Over S Ranch, the land has been passed down to family members and today is jointly owned by Wayne Ball, Merietta West and Roland and Leonard Ball, who work the land today as a cattle operation. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and several buildings, including the 1914 two-room farmhouse and chicken coop and 1920s barn, cow sheds and windbreak, are still in use.
Kindvall Ranch in New Raymer, founded 1912
In 1909 Alex and Clara Kindvall built a sod home on their newly acquired 320-acre Weld County homestead. They lived in their sod house for fifty years, raising kids Otis and Doris. On the farm they raised a different sort: livestock, including horses, hogs, chicken, and both cattle and dairy cows. Like most homesteaders, they took care of their own butchering. In addition, they grew feed crops such as barley, corn, wheat and oats, and they had an extensive garden. The family preserved the garden’s produce, storing the root vegetables in a dugout and drying and canning the rest. In the early 1930s Otis built a farmhouse, which is still lived in today, as are the original barn and the grain-storage shed. Today Alex and Clara’s original sod home is still standing and used for storage, and their descendant George Kindvall and his neighbor Monte Younglund work together to raise cattle on the now 2080-acre ranch.
Leafgren Farm in Lucerne, founded 1914
In the 1890s Adolf and Amelia Erickson emigrated from Boden, Sweden, to Weld County, where they originally homestead land several miles west of Evans in an area called the Ashton Farming District. In 1914 they sold the farm and purchased a new one near Lucerne. Though he retired in the 1920s, Adolf owned the farm until his death in 1930. In 1944 Amelia passed away and the farm was divided equally among her children Lily, Oscar, Elsie and Alvin. Within a few years, Lily and husband Arthur Leafgren bought out her siblings and became the sole owners. Arthur died in 1962, and in 1976 Lily sold the farm to her children William, Harriet and Larry. Following Larry’s and wife Betty’s deaths, their interest was transferred to the LBRC Leafgren, LLC, which is run by Erickson family descendants who have raised on the farm corn, wheat, pinto beans, potatoes, onions and sugar beets, as well as lamb and cattle. Several historic buildings are still in use today, including the 100-year-old barn and milk shed and outbuildings from the 1930s and 1940s. Today William and Brian Leafgren continue their grandfather Adolf’s legacy, working the farm a hundred years after he purchased the land.
In 1899 C.F. Deterding married his wife in Marysville, Illinois. With $500 in their pocket, the couple immediately moved to Colorado to buy land. They found 160 acres outside of Vernon, in Yuma County, where they lived in a sod house for two generations, only building the farmhouse when C.F.’s grandson, Alva, was four years old. This farmhouse is still the primary residence on the property today. In the 1920s the family built a granary and chicken house, both still in use today. The family grew wheat, corn, and beets, as well as raised cattle, from which they produced cream and eggs, which were either shipped to Denver or sold at the local Vernon store. A 32-volt wind-charged battery supplied electricity to the house, unless lack of wind led the family to use a gas generator, and a windmill on site pumped water, which was stored in a wooden tank. “Once in a while, a small worm from the wooden water tank would come into your glass,” Alva wrote in a letter. “I often ask myself how many I swallowed at night in the dark.” A sense of humor was always necessary on the farm. Grain stored in the granary had to be hand-scooped into horse-drawn wagons, but once, when Edwin Deterding was scooping grain, he plopped his wife Genove with the next load in her face as she stuck her head around the corner. Through thick and thin times, the family has persisted, and today the farm is owned by Brent and Brad Deterding, who raise wheat, corn, beets and cattle.
Mekelburg Farms, LLC, in Yuma, founded 1894
Herman Brand arrived in the U.S. from Germany on April 1, 1880, at the age of 18. After several years of working in Ohio and Denver, he came to Yuma County in 1887. In April 1891, he married Rose Katrola, and three years later he purchased the original acres of the now Mekelburg farm. Rose and Herman had five children: John, Henry, Kate, Mary and Wenzel, who was born in 1911 and lived on the farm all of his life, raising cattle, pigs, sheep, corn, wheat and various other crops. Wenzel never married or had children but was close to his nieces and nephew, Doris, Shirley and Don Rutledge, who lived across the road. Upon Wenzel’s death, the homestead and grassland was passed to great nephew Michael Mekelburg, who had worked closely with Wenzel on the farm during the last years of his life. Michael carried on the family farming traditions until his death in 2007, after which the farm was purchased by Mekelburg Farms, LLC, which is owned by Leon and Doris Mekelburg’s family, comprising Randy, David and Tom Mekelburg, Deb Higgins, and Michael's children Ashley, Cody and Alex. In September 2009, great-great-granddaughter of Herman Brand, Cassidee Gleghorn and her husband Jed purchased the homestead acreage from Mekelburg Farms, LLC, and have a home there where they raise cattle and horses. The big red barn that was once used as a dairy barn is now used for horses, and the granary and chicken house are still in use as well.
NB5, LLC, in Yuma, founded 1912
Deeded to Ambrose by his father Wenzel Blach, Sr., as a reward for helping him farm their homestead until he was 27, the original 160-acre homestead had a very small two-room house and a well when Ambrose moved to the homestead in 1916, rented an additional 320 acres and began life as a farmer. He raised wheat and corn along with cattle and hogs. In 1917 Ambrose married Katherine Brand, a local farm girl, and together they built both a family and a farm. They remained life-long partners in very successful ventures, which included raising a eight children and expanding the farm and ranch to include a modern home, outbuildings, equipment and new acreage. They achieved this through hard work, diligent record keeping, a frugal lifestyle and a deep Catholic faith. The land passed down to Bonnie Blach and Annabelle Blach Perlenfein and is now under ownership of their nieces and nephews through the NB5, LLC. Dryland wheat and proso millet are now grown on a spread that covers 2,744 acres. Several historic buildings, including a 1912 farmhouse, 1915 milk barn and 1931 grain elevator, are still in use.
RMR Ranch, Inc., in Yuma, founded 1902
Herman Brand immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1880 at the age of 18, and he worked for several years in Ohio before coming Denver to become a farmer as his father was in Germany. He married Rose Katrola, and together they had five children: John, Henry, Kate, Mary and Wenzel. In May 1894 Herman purchased a homestead northeast of Yuma, with additional land purchased in 1902. Herman raised cattle, horses and farmed various crops. Both he and Rose were very involved in the local community, and Herman served as a Yuma County Commissioner for eight years. Mary Brand, who was born on the farm, married Stanley Rutledge in 1933 and their three children, Doris, Shirley and Donald, were also born on the farm. They continued to farm and expand the Brand farm ground and ranch, raising cattle and Belgian and Percheron horses. Soon center pivot and flood irrigation were introduced, and Doris married Leon Mekelburg, with whom she had six children: Deb, Randy, Mike, Richard, David and Tom. Some of the land was bought by Mekelburg Farms, LLC, operated by Brand family members and inducted as a Centennial Farm this year as well. After graduating from CSU, Donald and wife Judy returned to the farm and, along with Stanley and Leon, formed the RMR Ranch, Inc. They started a dairy with 45 cows, but expanded until they had 100. Doris lived on the land and in the house where she was born until her passing on June 28, 2012. Today Don and Judy continue to farm the original land, raising corn, peas and barley, along with children Brett, Roc and Spring.