Knips family a fixture on rural Lismore farm since 1902
Present generation has owned farm since January.
LISMORE — While it may not be the highest point in Nobles County, the view from the front windows of Richard and Kerri Knips’ rural Lismore home is a spectacular one that showcases rows of growing corn and soybeans, as well as rotating wind turbines in the distance.
“If there’s one thing we do appreciate, it’s our view,” said Richard.
Of course, there’s much more to appreciate about living where they do — on land that has been in the Knips family since 1902. Richard and his wife, Kerri, purchased the 13-acre acreage in 2014, and purchased the remaining farmland in early January from his father’s estate. Applying for Century Farm status was one of the first steps they took after gaining ownership.
“We waited a long time to get out here — to gain ownership,” Richard said. “To continue this farm with my wife and children is huge for me.”
While they are new owners of the farmland, Richard has farmed the land solely since June 1992 when, at age 23 he lost his dad, Earl, to cancer. Prior to that, starting from the time he was an infant, Richard seemed groomed to be a farmer.
He told of how his dad bolted an infant car seat inside the cab of the 4020 John Deere so that the youngest of his four children could ride along during field work.
“I was the child that was extremely active at a very young age with my dad,” Richard said. “Anything he would let me do, I did — and some things he didn’t let me do.”
From German roots
Richard represents the fifth generation of the Knips family to call this land in Lismore Township home. His great-great-grandfather, Gerhardt Knips, emigrated from Fulda, Germany and worked in the brewery business in Stillwater before moving across the state to Nobles County. He initially settled in Leota Township, just north of the 80-acre Lismore Township farm he purchased in 1902, at the time of Lismore’s founding.
“He bought this as a retirement home because his (oldest) son, Robert, was going to continue farming in Leota Township,” Richard shared.
“He bought it when he was 70 years old,” added Kerri.
Over the past 119 years, the acreage has hosted several different homes. The oldest house was moved to Magnolia and is still occupied today. There was a smaller house that was moved to Leota, and the home Richard grew up in, built in 1972, was moved off the acreage in 2000 and found its new home about four miles east-northeast of the Knips farm. Richard and Kerri built their new home on the site in 2014.
“When Kerri and I married, we lived in Adrian for 20 years, but I was farming out here,” said Richard, who earned his bachelor’s degree in ag business from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, and then met Kerri, who was teaching third grade at Adrian.
The original 80-acre parcel purchased by Gerhardt Knips was expanded to its present 267 contiguous acres thanks to land purchases by Richard’s ancestors. Richard has purchased land, and rents land, within a six-mile area of the home farm.
While the size of the farm grew, the production of livestock dwindled. Back in Richard’s youth, his parents had a feeder cattle operation that he helped with, and then when he was in the sixth grade, he dabbled in hog production.
“I started buying a small number of hogs and fed hogs through high school,” he said. “When the whole industry changed and went to isowean, I didn’t have the newer style barns and it was either get in bigger or get out. I didn’t have the land to put them on.”
His parents exited the cattle feeding business in 1984.
“One thing I’ll always remember is when school was two hours late, it wasn’t sleep in-time — it was time to clean out bunks,” Richard shared.
His parents purchased cattle from western South Dakota, and Richard said it was always an exciting time when a new truckload would come in.
“As a young kid, I very quickly learned every face of every steer,” he said.
And there’s always stories to share about the steers that are nice, and the ones you need to stay away from.
Richard recalled one time when he was helping sort cattle and one steer met his gaze and “he was sizing me up,” he said. “He charged me and barreled overtop of me. He stepped right around me, but never stepped on me.
“My dad yelled from 25 feet over — he kind of ripped into me a little bit,” Richard added with a grin. “Mom said, ‘Dad’s just a little excited — don’t take it serious’ and he yells, ‘Take it serious!’”
Richard said he would have liked to stay in the cattle industry, but living in Adrian for 20 years made that difficult.
“We’re grain farming now, corn and beans,” he added.
“Initially we had 33 chickens,” shared Kerri. “The kids (Sydney and Cole) were selling them to the Magnolia Cafe. They did that for two years.”
Today, they have just eight chickens on the farm.
All of the buildings Richard recalled from his childhood on the farm are mostly gone, including a pair of stave silos and bunker silos he took down in 2016. The exception is a machine shed and a brick building in the center of the yard that was built in the 1920s as a garage.
“We built a majority of the grain storage and a shop,” Richard said. “In 2016, we built a cold storage machine shed.”
While Richard intends to continue farming, it remains to be seen whether the next generation will continue the tradition. Daughter Sydney completed two years at Minnesota West Community & Technical College and will transfer to Southwest Minnesota State University this fall. She is studying business management, with a minor in accounting. Son Cole, meanwhile, will be a senior this fall at Adrian High School.
“With everything going on in the world and the way the industry has changed, time will tell,” Richard said. “It’s up to the kids.”
For now, they’re gaining experience in farm life. Sydney has operated the cultivator and planter a bit, and Cole does a lot of rock picking, operating the skid loader and lawn mowing.
“They’re starting to get more and more involved,” Richard said, adding that Kerri left her teaching job to help him farm once their home was built.
“Our wish is that if they want to be involved, we have an open door,” added Kerri.
“I believe you have to do what you like to do,” Richard shared. “We tell Sydney and Cole that if their interest does lie here, we’ll do our best to help where we can.”