By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
The Schirmers’ farm, east of Buckman, was recently honored by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau for having the 160 acres in their family for 100 years. Today’s owners are the three great-grandchildren of the original owner, Steven Schirmers.
Steven, born in Germany in April 1877, came to the United States in 1884. In 1885, he and his family lived in Avon. He was naturalized as a citizen in 1900, and in 1905, he lived in Pinetop in Itasca County.
In 1912, when he was 34, he purchased property east of Buckman, paying $30 per acre for the 160-acre farm. He married in about 1914, to Mary Schmitt. Their first child, Alfred, was born in 1915, and he eventually took over the farm in 1954.
The couple had seven children when Mary died in childbirth in 1936. Steven never remarried and was head of household with the six of the seven children left without a mother. The newborn, Marie, went to live with Steve’s brother Martin who was married to Mary’s sister, Margerett. They also lived in the Buckman area.
Steven worked the farm for 26 years. He built a home and barn, both which are still standing. The house has been added on to over the years, but the barn remains practically the same.
“The kitchen is part of the original home, as is the living room and one bedroom,” said current owner Sarah Schirmers.
Steven died in 1938. From that point, his seven children owned the farm for 16 years.
In the 1940 Census, Alfred was 24, the head of the house and running the farm with his siblings, Elma, Leo, Doris, Lorretta, Celestine and Maria.
Alfred, who was sole owner of the farm in 1954, married Sally Rastetter and they had five children. The youngest was Frank, born in 1955, who eventually took over the farm. The other children in the family were Wilfred, Mary Lou, James and Herbie.
The Alfred Schirmers family raised dairy cows, beef cattle, hogs and chickens at that time and Frank’s son, Mike, who now owns the farm, remembers his dad saying the milk cans needed to be cooled. Everything was done by hand and life was just a bit harder.
“Dad told me he biked everywhere he went and didn’t get a car until he was much older,” said Mike.
Frank’s brother, Wilfred, said the home got electricity in the early 1950s and phone service in probably the late 1950s. It wasn’t until 1965 that the family installed plumbing.
“That was the year I married Diane Litke,” said Wilfred.
At one point, Alfred purchased a brand new Ford 9N tractor. Son, Frank, thought it was the best thing ever. The tractor was eventually sold, then resold, but stayed in the area.
When the owner was tracked down, Frank discovered his old tractor had been restored and that it looked brand new. He told Mike that someday, he would have to purchase it back and get it back on the farm. Frank said it belonged on the Schirmers’ farm.
Mike said that when the owner is ready to sell, he is ready to buy.
Frank bought a home in Buckman to move his parents into when he got the farm.
Alfred died in 1991, after owning the farm for 29 years.
Alfred’s son Frank next owned the farm. He and his wife Carol (Virnig) ran it for 30 years. But when Frank was just 19 years old, he had purchased trucks and hauled milk in the Buckman area.
During Frank’s first years with the farm, he purchased several over-the-road trucks which hauled grain, hay and more across the country. Many of his employees were from the Buckman area. While he was gone, Carol would work the farm.
In 1984, when he was working the Buckman farm, he built a chicken barn, adding 50,000 chickens to his duties. He raised them for Gold’n Plump Companies.
Frank’s son Mike continues the practice of raising chickens on the 160-acre farm.
“Dad farmed a little, but started leasing the land out when he started with the chickens,” said Mike.
Mike said his family raised deer, llamas, ducks, chickens, dogs, rabbits and cats.
“We had lots of pets. There were animals everywhere,” he said. “We needed a game farm license to be able to have all these animals, especially the deer.”
“Dad just loved the deer, raising them and then selling them to other game farms,” said Sarah. “We lived on Schirmers’ Game Farm and it was an awesome place to grow up.”
Both Mike and Sarah remember bottle-feeding the deer, ensuring they were tame. The family would then let them run loose and they wouldn’t run away.
The Schirmers kids’ friends were always at their home to see the animals.
“We also had tame bucks,” Sarah said. “I could peel the felt off their horns, they were that tame.”
Frank passed away in 2009, at age 55.
Mike lives on the farm, and continues raising chickens for Gold’n Plump. He works full-time as an electrician for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and continues to rent out most of the 160 acres. Sarah attends college at the University of Wisconsin, Superior, with plans to graduate with a degree in social work.
“I would love to get a job back here, I love the area,” she said.
The Century Farm program began in 1976 and about 8,000 Minnesota Farms have been recognized. About 250 farms are added each year. To qualify, the farm must have been in one family for at least 100 years, be at least 50 acres in size and be currently involved in agriculture production.
For more information, go the [email protected] or call (651) 288-4400.