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Schilling farm marks 104 years in the family

Derek (from left), Verlis and Brenda Schilling operate a farm south of Adrian that has been in their family for 104 years. (Veasey Conway/Daily Globe)

ADRIAN -- "The thing about farming," Verlis Schilling says, is that "you don't have much of a choice where you farm -- you farm where you started."

For Verlis, his wife Brenda, and their son Derek, their start was on familiar ground.

The land the Schilling farm currently sits on has been in the family for 104 years -- since 1909, when Illinois native Henry Baal moved to Minnesota with his wife. Henry Baal stopped in Nobles County, starting a farm south of Adrian that has been in the family to this day.

Much has changed over years and generations at the farm. There are no cattle around anymore. Today's farm equipment dwarfs earlier machines.

The buildings have changed, too. A single old silo stands -- a remnant of the farm from an earlier era.

Most farms are larger today -- mechanized equipment can make short work of hundreds or thousands of acres. Verlis likens the trend to the emergence of Wal-Mart across the country. And farm output is as interconnected as ever -- prices in other states and regions have immediate effects locally.

In earlier generations, Verlis says, effort was the chief determinant of farming success. If you worked hard, you could make a farm work. Now, however, farm management has eclipsed physical labor as the most important skill. Sensing economic trends and indices is crucial.

Besides possessing business acumen, a successful farmer's skill set must be broad and deep. The Schillings love the variety of tasks they complete on any given day.

"You don't get bored that way," Verlis says. "And you're your own boss. If you want to go fishing, nobody is stopping you."

But fishing all day doesn't keep a farm in a family for 104 years.

And in the sky above the Schilling's 157 acres, the weather always seems to be changing. They've seen tornadoes and hail, and they're still cleaning up from the recent ice storm, which downed tree limbs and left them using generator power for 125 hours. "There's always something new that comes along," Brenda says.

Indeed, the farm that has been in the Schilling family for generations has seen a lot of changes -- be it man made, natural, or a little of both.

The constants? Family, and the land itself, which, on the Schilling farm, seem to be one in the same.

As for the weather: "Don't like it? Wait 'til next year," Verlis says.

Veasey Conway
Veasey Conway is the Night Editor at the Daily Globe. He attended Carleton College and graduated in 2012 with a degree in American Studies. He has interests in photojournalism, documentary photography, journalism 2.0 and community journalism. He is originally from Cambridge, Mass., but has also lived in Gloucester, Mass., Cairo, Ill., Cairo, Egypt and Minneapolis. He tweets and keeps a photo column/blog.
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