German heritage prevails on Gentz farm
LAKEFIELD — Good fences may make good neighbors, but a shared heritage can also lead to generations of goodwill.
“A lot of the ancestors of Heron Lake Township residents first lived close to each other in Germany, and they immigrated to this area together,” said Nyles Gentz, whose family farm now carries the Century Farm distinction.
“They’ve literally been neighbors for hundreds of years.”
Recently, the 145-acre plot Gentz owns with his wife, Helane, brother Alton and mother Irene qualified for Minnesota Century Farm status, while another farm he and his wife own in the area became a century farm 14 years ago.
“Helane and I went to high school together in Lakefield,” said Gentz, who currently lives in Buffalo and works as a financial planner. “We have four children and five grandchildren.”
Gentz’s parents — Irene, 82, and the late Maynard Gentz — spent most of their lives on the family farm.
“My dad grew up there, and he never moved more than 150 feet his whole life,” said Gentz. “He was born in his parents’ [Carl and Olga] home on the property.
“In the late 1950s, mom and dad purchased a schoolhouse which was moved to the farm, and Maynard passed away in that house in 2002.”
Gentz’s uncle, Milford Gentz, and Milford’s wife, Janice, raised their three daughters (Lynette, Sheryl and Jolene) in another house on the farm. And in the late 1960s, Milford and Janice bought another farm a few miles away.
Maynard Gentz stopped actively farming in the late 1950s after buying the Skelly station (now the Corner Gas Station) in Lakefield, while Irene was a longtime employee of the First State Bank in Lakefield.
Still, Nyles Gentz and his brothers (Greg of Remsen, Iowa, and Alton and Mitch, both of Lakefield) were raised with plenty of first-hand farm knowledge, because they assisted their Uncle Milford as he produced corn, soybeans, alfalfa, pigs and shorthorn cattle.
“They used to have horses and sheep, too, but that was way before my time,” Gentz said.
The German Lutheran Gentzes attended St. Peter Lutheran six miles north of Lakefield), although Helane and Nyles married were married in Helane’s home church, Emmanuel Lutheran.
“My mother, Irene, was of German and Swiss descent and grew up in Rost Township but moved into Lakefield when she was a teenager,” explained Gentz.
The Gentz farm, which was initially purchased by August and Anna Gentz in March 1914, boasts a view from the east side of Heron Lake.
“The crop ground north of Lakefield is flat as a pancake but very fertile,” reported Gentz.
“It was a very good place to grow up, and there was always something to do.
“And years ago, Heron Lake was known as a premier duck hunting lake in the country.”
Gentz still visits Jackson County and his mother, Irene, as frequently as three times a month, managing to fit in time for duck hunting and deer hunting.
“It’s neat to be able to go home and know your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents farmed the same land,” Gentz related.
“This is land that will always be in the family, God willing, and may continue to be for the next 200 years,” he asserted. “It’s not for sale, because our roots are here.”