From Sweden to Century Farm

Jere Lundberg, standing last week on the land where his grandparents Carl and Sannie lived as farmers a century ago.
Jere Lundberg, standing last week on the land where his grandparents Carl and Sannie lived as farmers a century ago.


If you go to the wooded spot about 10 miles northeast of Princeton where Swedish resident Carl Lundberg and his family settled a century ago, you won’t find the house anymore.

Nor will you find the Swedish couple’s pump house, smokehouse, barn, machine shed, root cellar or small garage.

What you will find is an old windmill that was original to the location, but it is not in good shape, bent over from a tree that fell on it during a windstorm. Also on the property are a couple of old wringer washing machines that Carl Lundberg and his wife Sannie had, along with almost a dozen old horse-drawn farm implements, most of them kept in a shed.

Jere Lundberg, the grandson of Carl and Sannie Lundberg, owns and farms the century farm land. He lives down the road to the south and west a few miles and next to another farm that he farms.

The Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota Farm Bureau century farm program certifies a century farm if it has been continuously farmed by a family for a century or more.

Despite none of the original buildings remaining, a little imagination can fill in the blanks. The spot where the house sat is a shady haven with a variety of trees around a small, grassy clearing.

Carl Lundberg was known for love of trees, continuously planting them. He even sold young trees as a side income to his farm of dairy cows, pigs and chickens. Among the trees around the area where the house sat are a birch, a jack pine, some large oaks more than a century old, a maple and more. A basswood off to one side is broken off.

It’s like a wildlife refuge, Jere Lundberg remarked. Inside the edge of the woods a little ways sits a little tree house.

The beginnings

Carl moved to this farm in the fall of 1913, Jere Lundberg said. It is unlikely that Sannie moved there that year because Carl Lundberg married Sannie in 1914, he noted. Carl’s parents, August and Johanna Lundberg, were Swedish immigrants who lived along Stanchfield Lake in the area. Jere Lundberg said August would work in a north woods logging camp during winters, while Johanna stayed home and milked the cows.

Carl and Sannie Lundberg had two children: Willard (now deceased) and Vivian. Jere Lundberg is the son of Willard and Janice Lundberg, and Jere Lundberg and his wife Barbara have three grown children: Kristi Morisset, Jamie Lundberg and Nicole Lundberg, and also have two grandchildren, Luke, 18, and Zach, 14. Luke has been helping on the Lundberg farm.

The Lundberg century farm originally had 60 acres and the family later added 70 more acres. Willard, besides carrying on the family farming tradition, was active in a civic way. He was on the Mille Lacs County Fair Board 34 years and was a soil and water conservation director for 32 years. Willard and Carl Lundberg were township constables, their job to keep peace and order at township meetings and elections. Jere Lundberg has also done township work as a treasurer for Princeton and Dalbo Townships.

Biggest event on the century farm

One of the biggest events for Carl and Sannie Lundberg was electricity coming to their farm, Jere Lundberg said. It happened during the evening of Christmas Eve 1938, as Carl and Sannie Lundberg were preparing to head out to their Christmas Eve church service.

A family story goes that Sannie Lundberg was afraid the new lights might cause a fire, so the couple decided not to attend the service.

It was the federal Rural Electric Administration, created in 1935 under then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that brought electricity to rural areas of the country in a major way.

Jere Lundberg said he was surprised that the REA program had reached the farm of Carl and Sannie Lundberg as early as it did.

“Electricity really changed farming,” bringing automation, milking machines and running water, Jere Lundberg said.

Stories from the farm

Carl and Sannie Lundberg had Guernsey milk cows and they had dairy cows up until 1962.

Among other stories from Jere Lundberg about the century farm:

–Vivian liked climbing the century farm windmill as a child, so Carl Lundberg, concerned for her safety, removed the bottom rungs of the windmill ladder.

–Vivian passed along the story about Carl planting so many trees and selling young trees and garden produce as a sideline. Vivian is 92 and living in Inver Grove Heights.

–There was still quite a forest in the area that Carl and Sannie Lundberg arrived at to farm, so Carl Lundberg spent much time cutting down trees and pulling out the stumps with a horse-drawn stump puller to make farm fields.

–Carl was a hard worker and strong, and Carl Lundberg’s first crop was potatoes. Jere Lundberg still has the horse-drawn potato digger that Carl Lundberg owned. Carl Lundberg would sell potatoes to Princeton potato king, O.J. Odegard, and also sold potatoes to a couple starch factories – one in Princeton, and one not far beyond. Carl Lundberg, in turn, bought some horses from O.J.

–Sannie Lundberg would harness the horses and drive a wagon into town to deliver potatoes, while Carl Lundberg stayed home clearing more land for crops.

–In Carl and Sannie Lundberg’s day, residents didn’t travel far like people do today, mostly going into town or to Cambridge.

–Carl Lundberg did like getting out and about, having coffee, and visiting. One of their visitors was mail carrier Lee Sanford, driving a horse-drawn wagon, which in the winter was replaced with a sled. Sanford would arrive around noon there and stop in, putting the horses up in the Lundberg barn to rest them. Sannie Lundberg would always give Sanford a hot dinner when he arrived, after which Sanford harnessed up his horses and headed back to town.

–Carl and Sannie Lundberg spoke Swedish and, because of that, Willard and Vivian didn’t begin learning English until they started attending school.

Carl and Sannie, like some other rural families, would rent out a room in their home to a rural school teacher. The teacher would stay for a week or two at a time and then go home.

Jere Lundberg, looking back on the days of Carl and Sannie Lundberg, said they had a hard life, but didn’t know anything different. Everything was simpler back then, without the technology that has developed since, he observed.

“They didn’t know computers and the fast-lane stuff,” Jere Lundberg said.

On the other hand, people of Carl and Sannie Lundberg’s generation, and even the generation after, got to know everyone around them better than people of today do, Jere Lundberg said. In those generations, the entertainment included a lot card parties, dances and neighbors getting together, he said.

Jere Lundberg, 63, said that when he heard his farm would receive the century program designation, he looked forward to getting the plaque. He commented, with emphasis in his voice, that the old windmill is going to get fixed. When the wind knocked over the nearby tree, “it had to land on the windmill,” he said, with a wry sense of humor.

Standing where Carl and Sannie Lundberg lived, Jere Lundberg wondered aloud whether family after him would continue farming the Lundberg century farm. He indicated it’s not likely and said he felt bad that the farming tradition that began on the century farm might not continue in the Lundberg family.

That’s “worse than sad,” he said.

  • Nicole Lundberg

    Jere and Barb Lundberg actually have 6 grandchildren and one more on the way. Luke, Brennan, Zachary, Alexis, Addison, Emma and baby due in December. -Nicole Lundberg