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Ennengas hold happy memories of family, work on century farm

WILMONT -- Life on the Ennenga family farm located a little more than two miles south of Wilmont meant plenty of work for everyone, but for the three children of LeRoy Ennenga, that wasn't necessarily a burden."I have so many wonderful memories o...

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LeRoy Ennenga (seated) with his children, Sheila (from left), Jason and Darcy. (Special to The Globe)

WILMONT - Life on the Ennenga family farm located a little more than two miles south of Wilmont meant plenty of work for everyone, but for the three children of LeRoy Ennenga, that wasn’t necessarily a burden.
“I have so many wonderful memories of growing up on the farm,” attested Darcy (Ennenga) Swick, now of Grinnell, Iowa. “We spent the summer working on the farm - walking beans, picking rock, freezing sweet corn, taking care of a big garden and dressing chickens - but most times it didn’t feel like work.
“Of course, we didn’t get to spend the summer at the pool or riding bikes down the block to the neighbors’ houses, but we did enjoy just being a family, and we spent many hours working and playing together as siblings,” she added.
Swick’s brother and sister - Jason Ennenga of Eagan and Sheila (Ennenga) Krueger of Eagle River, Wis. - have made their own homes away from the farm where they were raised, but their father, LeRoy Ennenga, continues to own what is now a 105-acre century farm in Larkin Township.
Ennenga’s maternal grandparents, John J. and Grace (Janseen) Elsing, originally purchased 120 acres on April 11, 1917. The couple, who married in 1911, paid $16,800 ($140 per acre) for the property but apparently couldn’t afford to immediately move to Minnesota from their previous home in Ackley, Iowa.
“They moved up here in 1920, maybe when they’d paid off enough of it,” speculated Ennenga. “My mother was 9 or 10, and her sister Jeanetta was 6 or 7, but the only thing I was ever told about the move was that my grandmother cried for months because the winter here was so different than in Iowa.
“When I was young, we never asked, and parents and grandparents were very private about those things, so I would urge young people to ask more questions so history can be carried on.”

Ennenga knows that Grace Elsing came from the Netherlands while John Elsing, an adoptee, emigrated from the Ostfriesland area of Germany. He is unsure, however, of exactly when they arrived in the United States.
“I compare it to the immigrants of today, and think about how my grandparents only spoke German at home because, due to World War I and anti-German sentiment, they didn’t want people to know they were from Germany,” Ennenga revealed. “They learned to speak English pretty fast, out of necessity.”

With no soybeans in the picture until the 1950s, the Elsings had “all kinds of animals” and also raised small grains, corn and hay.
In the 1930s, they built a new barn on the farm, and in 1935 John and Grace’s son, Peter H. Ennenga, married Hilda.
“In 1940, when I was a year old, my parents moved from east of Wilmont to the farm and my grandparents moved into Wilmont,” explained Ennenga, an only child.
John Elsing worked at the time for the Albersman Lumber Company of Wilmont and did so for several years. In 1953, the Ennengas formally purchased the farm from John and Grace. Their price? A little more than $3,000 higher than what the Elsings paid in 1917: $19,800, or $165 per acre.
Prior to their purchase, Ennenga’s parents built a new house in 1952. The original farmhouse was moved to Worthington’s First Avenue, across from the railroad tracks, where it continues to serve as a residence to this day.
Ennenga has fond memories of his childhood years in rural Wilmont. He attended a country school one mile north of his farm through eighth grade (and was among the last class to complete all eight years there) before proceeding to Adrian High School, of which he is a graduate.
“It was all our close neighbors at the country school, and we were kind of together all the time,” said Ennenga. “Because I was an only child, school meant time to play with the neighbor kids.”
Ultimately, Ennenga earned a degree from Worthington Community College, married in 1965 and lived in Wilmont until his parents retired in 1968. Ennenga farmed the land until 1998, and during his 30 years of full-time farming tended many, many pigs.
“I had a farrow-to-finish operation, but I enjoyed the farming part more than raising the pigs,” he chuckled. “It was tough to do all that stuff in the winter when it was 20-below and snowing - but you had to do it.”
A challenging farm economy and some health problems precipitated Ennenga’s retirement from farming, but even as he rented out his land he worked part-time at Wilmont Hardware and at Spomer Motors in Worthington.
In 2008, Ennenga moved into Worthington and sold the acreage, retaining the 105-acre parcel that comprises the family’s century farm yet today.
“It was nice to be out there, tilling the land and having the freedom to make your own decisions,” he reflected. “Things have changed so much it’s unreal.”
Ennenga happily recalls the days when it was a tradition for neighbors to help each other.
“Everyone is on their own today unless they have a family operation,” he observed. “In my youth, if you needed help your neighbors came, and you did the same. You shared experiences and sorrows and relied on each other a lot more.”

One small regret Ennenga has is that during his high school years, being 13 miles outside of Adrian meant he couldn’t participate in high school athletics.
“There wasn’t time to run back and forth for practices like kids do today,” he said. “I was out for baseball one year, but a lot of kids today don’t realize how lucky they are.”
One “kid” who nevertheless appreciated her rural upbringing and continues to be grateful for the Ennenga family’s century farm is Ennenga’s daughter, Swick.
Noted Swick, “Living in town all my adult life, there are so many times I miss the simplicity of the farm - the smell of the fresh dirt, the quiet of the country and just being together.”

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An aerial view of LeRoy Ennenga's century farm. (Special to The Globe)

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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