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Century Farm: Chandler farm survives changes for 102 years

Glen Rylaarsdam (left), Ike Rylaarsdam and Virgil Rylaarsdam stand next to one of the larger barns on the property. (Alex Chhith/Daily Globe)

CHANDLER — The Rylaarsdam farm started with 160 acres in 1914. Today it spans double that — 320 acres.

Verlin Rylaarsdam, who goes by Ike, lives and works on the dairy farm with wife, Kathy, two sons, five grandchildren and — at times — five dogs. Their youngest son, Glen, 25, technically lives on a neighboring plot of land, and his dogs frequent the Rylaarsdam farm.

Ike’s grandfather, Cornelius Rylaarsdam, originally purchased the farm and came to the United States from the Netherlands at age 19. When he first visited the U.S., Cornelius explored parts of Michigan and Pennsylvania. In the Netherlands, Cornelius was a farmer and a trucker, Ike said.

Cornelius returned to the Netherlands to bring his soon-to-be wife, Marie Rylaarsdam, to Chandler in southwest Minnesota. He originally bought two plots of land in 1914 — the one Ike lives on and another 80 acre farm in the town. The latter was sold after the couple died.

Marie was a schoolteacher in the Netherlands, but never taught again after moving to Chandler.

“She had a tough time adjusting,” said Kathy Rylaarsdam, Ike’s wife, adding that Marie was a “city lady” and felt isolated in the countryside.

Cornelius and Marie never visited the Netherlands moving and passed away in the 1940s.

Ike and Kathy never met Cornelius and Marie (Ike was born in 1952), but they know the move was for the better.

“It was better than what he was doing in the Netherlands,” Kathy said.

Ike’s mother, Alice Rylaarsdam, also immigrated to Chandler from the Netherlands when she was 6 or 7 years old. Her maiden name was Vis, and Kathy said many people in Chandler recognize it today.

Adjusting to change

Ike bought the land from his father, Cornelius Marinus Rylaarsdam, in 1986. He always knew he wanted to stay on the farm.

The original house that came with Cornelius’ purchase of the land still stands, though the family recalled with laughter that it’s had many additions.

“It was so small, some women used to call it a granary,” Kathy said, adding that the structure has a barn-like roof.

Over the years, the family’s livestock species on the land have varied. They originally raised sheep, hogs, chickens and cows, but Ike and his family now only raise dairy cows.

“We had to go with one thing to make it work,” Ike said.

Ike’s sons Virgil and Glen Rylaarsdam graduated from Ridgewater College in Willmar in 2003 and 2011, respectively, with degrees in dairy management.

When Virgil returned after college, it became apparent to Ike that his sons wanted to work on the family farm. So, in 2003, Ike doubled the size of the family’s dairy herd to 250 cows.

With advancement in technology, manual labor has significantly decreased, Ike said, adding that the family has a machine that can plant eight rows of corn or soybeans at a time.

At one time, the family was only able to plant two rows of seed at a time.

In total, Ike and Marie have four children and nine grandchildren. Their two daughters live in Rochester and Brookings, S.D., Kathy said, adding that one works in the medical field and the other is a school teacher.

“Our hope is that our grandchildren keep the farm going,” Ike said. “We are the third and fourth generations … and the fifth is out running around.”