Home is where the farm is

Altena, DeGroot keep rural Leota farm in the family

Elaine Altena and her son, Loren DeGroot, stand with the original barn in the background of the family's Century Farm southeast of Leota on Chaney Avenue. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

LEOTA — In the warm weather months, Elaine Altena often travels from Sioux Center, Iowa to the rural Leota farm she owns. Her son, Loren, grows corn and soybeans on 80 acres there. Previously, the farm was owned by Hemet DeGroot, the father of Elaine’s first husband, Conrad. She purchased the property on Feb. 26, 1971, and this year, the land is receiving recognition as a Century Farm.

Elaine’s quite familiar with the site, as she called it home for a number of years.

“When my husband and I got married, we got that (farm) from his dad,” Elaine said. “The original 160 acres was the same. … I’m not sure what crops he had originally, but I know when my husband and I started we (raised) corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and they had pasture. Eventually, he stopped with the alfalfa and raised just corn and soybeans.”

Elaine and Conrad’s life together on the farm, however, was not long.

“He drowned when we were in the Black Hills — that was in 1970,” Elaine said. “My son (Loren) almost drowned, too — he survived, but he was unconscious for a while. He was 4; my oldest was 7 and my youngest was just a year.”


Elaine opted to rent out the farm initially. Years later, in 1996, Loren moved back to the farm on which he grew up — with his wife, Shelli — and in 2006 he bought the south 80 acres of the land (Elaine still owns the north 80).

There have been some changes in structures on the farm over the years, but not many.

“Originally we had a garage on its own, and then later we built a garage as well as a laundry room onto the house.” Elaine shared. “My husband built a lean-to on the barn. Originally the barn was smaller, and there was a silo on the east side that was taken down.”

Loren and his wife have four children, all grown. For now, it doesn’t appear the Century Farm will be actively maintained by the next generation.

“It would be a surprise,” Elaine said. “His (Loren’s) youngest son is handicapped, and his oldest son lives in the Cities and I just wouldn’t anticipate him farming. His two sons-in-law live in Sioux Falls and have jobs, so I wouldn’t imagine it being carried on — but I could be wrong.”

Elaine also owns a Century Farm just north (in Murray County) of the property that’s earning that designation this year. It was also once in her first husband’s family, and no one currently lives at the site.

“I had a tenant there a few years ago and Loren now farms that land, too,” Elaine said. That’s 160 acres ... and then he farms a half section east of there and another 80 acres west of there. On the half section, there’s a large pasture that someone rents for their livestock.”

The newest Century Farm will be visited by Elaine and several other family members later this month. In addition to Loren, Elaine has three daughters — two who live in Minneapolis and another who resides in Sioux Center.


“This year we’re going to vacation out there for my birthday,” explained Elaine, who’s celebrating her 80th. “We usually camp every year together; that’s our yearly vacation. We usually find a state park and we camp together, but this year a lot of them aren’t open. So we just decided to camp in the pond at the farm.”

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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