Weather Forecast


From Norway to Minnesota: Severtsons have long farming tradition in Kenneth

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE The Severtson family includes Kris (from left), Denise, Sterling and Andrea.

KENNETH -- Many immigrants to the United States brought not only their culture and language from the old country with them, but also their profession.

Many new arrivals from the Cornwall region of England, as well as Wales, were miners and continued that profession in the U.S. Farming, of course, was a main occupation for many immigrants across the country, and especially the Midwest.

Although it was not uncommon for newcomers to take up a completely different trade, it may seem unlikely that a boat captain would settle in Minnesota and become a farmer. This, however, was the case for Sterling Severtson's great-grandfather, John Severtson.

"He was a boat captain in Norway and became a farmer in America. I don't know how it happened," Sterling Severtson marvelled.

John Severtson made his way across the country -- first to Iowa, where he settled for a few years -- but this was not his permanent home.

"He had saved some money and bought the (Rock County) farm in 1913 from Jay and Maud Kennicott," Severtson said. "The land was better and cheaper up here, I guess."

By the time John had moved to the Kenneth area, Severtson said, "He was getting older." John Severtson only farmed the land himself for 14 years, and then passed it down to his three sons: Olaf, Sigmund and Bernhard, the latter being Severtson's grandfather.

And what did his ancestors grow in the early days?

"They had stock cows and horses to farm with, and grew corn and wheat," Severtson detailed. "The original farm that John bought was a full half section, and we now have a full quarter section."

The brothers Severtson farmed jointly for three years, but then times changed.

"I think one brother (Olaf) became ill and died, and Bernhard bought out Sigmund's share in the farm," Severtson explained.

Bernhard owned and operated the farm for over half of its existence -- 63 years -- and passed on ownership to Arlyn Severtson. Three years ago, Severtson took possession of the property, and has been farming his forebears' land ever since.

"We now farm corn and soybeans, and still have stock cows," he said. "The (1921) farmhouse they built is still here, but totally redone, so it's here in spirit, I guess. There is a chicken house that they lived in when they built the house, but it and other buildings have fallen down with age."

As for hopes that his children will want to farm their gently rolling quarter section, Severtson could only speculate.

"We'll see what they figure out in the future," he said. "One is 16 and the other is 14, so they still have time to think about it."