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Bottin-Donkersloot farm reaches century status

Jess and Lori Donkersloot pose outside the home that has stood the test of time on the family’s century farm south of Worthington. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Gone are the days when 3,000 sheep roamed the 80 acre original Bottin farm in rural Worthington.

Gone are the 800 cattle — though 50 still claim it as home — and even the original house has been torn down to make way for an air conditioned office and machine shed. A well and windmill, used to water the cattle, have also disappeared.

The original massive barn still stands, however, as do the granary and hog house. And, of course, the memories remain.

“I lived on that place for 40 years,” said Albert Donkersloot, grandson-in-law of the original owner. “My wife’s grandpa was the first guy to own it. August Bottin. He had all the buildings built. He come from Germany, and he was the big boss. I heard he was a tough boss, but he was always nice to me.”

Albert’s wife, Marie, was born on the farm. Her son Jess, current owner of the farm, almost followed in her footsteps.

“There was a hell of a snowstorm in 1969,” explained Jess. “Snow was as high as the lines. It took a dozer to plow the road out to get mom to the hospital so I could be born.”

That wasn’t the only storm the family remembers.

“We had a twister go around the silo once in the early ’80s, but never blew it over,” Jess recalled. “I was just a little fellow. All the wagons were blown around.”

Albert laughed at the memory. “That’s right! Our neighbor was cultivating across the way and he seen it. It went a half mile north of us then and took that guy’s machine shed.”

The farm, bought for $44 an acre in 1913, came with a few stories of its own.

“My wife’s grandpa bought the land from Illinois Yeske,” Albert remembered. “She was a widow lady. She had a half section going west and she gave each kid an 80, and he bought it from her kid that inherited it. Her husband was pitching manure on a spreader, and his kid was with him, and the kid fell off the seat and broke his arm. His dad took him into town on horseback, and it was raining and he caught pneumonia and died. The kid was OK.”

When August bought the land, he had all the buildings built, including the original house. His son, Henry, helped build a second house in 1926 next to the smaller, first one. This house, built with wood shipped all the way from the west coast, is the one Jess and his wife Lori live in today.

“Let me tell you,” Albert said, “that was a first-class house. “How’d he get the money to do all that? He had other farms, too. He knew how to make money. He was a wheeler dealer.”

The farm, now 160 acres of corn and soybeans, used to boast three hired men who helped out with the cattle and sheep. Jess isn’t sad that times changed and the sheep are now gone.

“The sheep were a lot of work,” remembered Jess. “Treating them with shots and all. I learned to hate the sheep. We shipped 20 some thousand ewes one year to Mexico.”

Albert remembers the work of digging wells.

“I dug two wells out there but we still never had no water. Back then we augured the wells. Can’t auger wells in Minnesota no more. You don’t have to go as deep with an augured well. Now you have to use an expensive drill and go real deep.”

“When I was a kid you worked and made your folks money,” Albert reminisced. “Nowadays the kids don’t want to work like that. I don’t see how anyone can buy a farm today. $10,000 an acre? How can anyone buy that?”

One hundred years is a long time to keep a farm in the same family, to raise animals and crops and keep the family stories alive. Albert, for one, is proud of their legacy.

“I don’t know anyone else around there whose been there that long,” he said.