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Nytsroms named Nobles County farm family of year

JULIE BUNTJER/DAILY GLOBE The 2013 Nobles County Farm Family of the Year is the Marlyn and Jolene Nystrom (seated) family of rural Worthington. Pictured behind the couple are their son, Ethan, daughter Karin and son-in-law Jeremy Peters. In the background are grandchildren Andrew “Angus” Nystrom (from left), Evan Peters, Jarett Peters, Mekyla Nystrom, Brennen Peters, Maggie Nystrom and Sara Nystrom.

WORTHINGTON — It might be a rarity for Marlyn and Jolene Nystrom’s grandchildren to ever utter the words, “I’m bored,” on their family farm south of Worthington.

No matter the day or the weather, there is always work to be done.

The Nystroms are being recognized for all of their hard work after being chosen the 2013 Nobles County Farm Family of the Year. They will be honored next Thursday at Farmfest, as well as at the Nobles County Fair at 11 a.m. Saturday, during the pancake breakfast.

The couple farms 270 acres of corn and soybeans, which are custom-planted and custom-harvested, allowing them to focus efforts on their 15-acre home site. There, they have five greenhouses and an agri-tourism adventure grounds complete with a corn maze, miniature golf, petting zoo and pumpkin launcher.

“We built the house in 1980 — started from scratch on a bare 80 (acres),” Marlyn said. “We’ve built buildings, moved buildings in.”

The Nystroms raised their three children on the farm and, as they got older, Jolene said they started selling pumpkins on the end of the driveway.

“Then we added the golf course and the animals,” she said.

The Nystroms developed what is today Grandpa’s Fun Farm as a way to do something for kids.

“We’ve both been involved in youth work at church,” Jolene said. “I was in daycare for a while, and we thought maybe we can provide something for kids to be doing.

“After we lost our granddaughter, that’s when we thought more about expanding it, too,” she added.

In 2002, Jolene returned to the classroom, enrolling in greenhouse management classes at Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls, S.D. As she worked through the program, the couple talked about things that could be added to the farm to develop a business.

A barn was moved in, antiques were added and the first greenhouse was erected on the farm in 2002. By that fall, a second greenhouse was in place, and the third came in 2003.

“Then we were going to quit (expanding the greenhouses) and our friends sold out and we bought their two greenhouses,” Jolene said with a laugh.

Today, the five retail greenhouses and one growing house are her primary focus. She begins planting seeds and plugs in December, nurturing plant growth of flowers and vegetables until spring, when the doors open to customers across the region.

“I start all my stuff — I seed it, I start it,” Jolene said, adding that she gets in plugs for certain patented products like Proven Winners.

She grows vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs and fruit, and also does some wholesale growing.

With Jolene busy with the greenhouse business, Marlyn focuses his efforts on the buildings and grounds.

Nearly two years ago, the couple adopted four of their grandchildren, and Marlyn often has them helping out with improvements. The children, ranging in age from 4 to 15, have lived with their grandparents for the past three years.

“Last year we moved all of the animals to a new area, and we added the playground equipment,” Jolene said.

“Partially because we adopted the four kids and wanted the traffic away from the house,” Marlyn added.

This year, Marlyn built a Fun House as well as restroom facilities for Grandpa’s Fun Farm.

“The Fun House is an old granary that we’ve converted,” Marlyn explained.

“It’s kind of like a maze inside of the building, really,” added Jolene.

As for the restroom, all of the kids pitched in to help build it.

“Some of them hesitantly, but they all came to help,” Marlyn said. “I have fun with both the grandsons and granddaughters on building things together. Even little Sara (age 4) likes to come in and get in on the building projects.”

While they get the grandchildren involved in different aspects of the family farm, both Marlyn and Jolene said it has been an adjustment raising a second family.

“It’s different from when we raised our kids,” Jolene said. “There are differences with the computer. It’s hard to communicate with them, I think.”

Still, they do things as a family as often as possible — from going to church to gathering around the dinner table.

“We probably work together more than we play together,” Jolene said.

Yet, they do get away from the farm and the work once in a while.

“Our vacations are short — one-day trips to the zoo or something like that,” Marlyn said.

The grandkids have enough imagination to make even life on the farm seem like a vacation.

“The kids have slept out in the grain bin — they bring their pillows and their blankets,” Marlyn said.

“Not every kid can do that,” added Jolene.

During the summer, the Nystroms’ oldest daughter, Karin Peters, watches the kids. This summer, they’ve been working to get the golf course ready for fall, and picking up sticks left behind after this spring’s ice storm. Karin also manages the refurbished furniture business in the barn at the farm.

Meanwhile, Karin’s husband, Jeremy, is eyeing progress on his new auto mechanics shop, which is being built on the Nystrom farm.

“He’s had a year of auto mechanics and a year of autobody and is working at a body shop,” Marlyn said. Once the building is completed, he will work at the site.

After Labor Day, Grandpa’s Fun Farm will once again open for its fall festival season. They have expanded it this year to include seven weekends — starting the weekend of Sept. 7 and continuing through the weekend of Oct. 19.

While the Fun House is the new feature this year, families can come and enjoy everything from the corn maze and playground area to petting zoo, craft area, miniature golf, disk golf, trike course, rides and the trebuchet (pumpkin launcher). There is also a food stand and plenty of pumpkins, squash and other fall produce available for purchase. Hours this year are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

During the weekdays of the fall festival, Grandpa’s Fun Farm plays host to school and church groups, as well as other organizations who schedule visits.

“One year, the church group did the corn maze with flashlights, which was kind of fun,” Marlyn said, adding that he does a new design in the cornfield each year.

Next year, the Nystroms hope to add a big slide to their Fun Farm, but they’re always on the lookout for new ideas.

“It’s just the simple things, sometimes, that make things better,” Marlyn said.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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