Farming fulfills lives of Berg Brothers
Fred Berg, 80, and Richard Berg, 78, love the land, agriculture and rural living.
After seven decades in farming, the Berg brothers show no signs of slowing down.
Both were born and lived their entire lifetime in Willow Lake Township, Redwood County, on land their grandfather, Henry Berg, homesteaded in 1887, and, as business partners have had a major part in keeping the farm in the family for 130 years.
Their grandparents, Henry and Mary Berg, owned the land on which the District 67 School was built. The school itself provides a chapter in their life story. Theodore (Ted) Berg, father of Fred and Richard, attended the school and grew up on the Berg family farm ½ mile east of the school, located along U.S. Highway 71. Eventually, he met the school teacher, Evelyn Iverson, and they were married on June 23, 1936, at St. Joseph Church in Clements. They continued the operation of the family farm where they raised their family, Frederick, Richard, Elaine (now Mrs. Don Guetter), and Carolyn (now Mrs. John Baune). The Berg children all attended District 67 School. The school was closed and consolidated with Sanborn School District in the 1950s, a time when all Minnesota country schools consolidated or merged with larger independent school districts, and state-wide all school districts were renumbered. In 1958, when Fred Berg married Dolores Florek, they purchased 2½ acres on which the school was located, and converted it into a comfortable home where they raised six children — Fred’s home for the past 59 years. Richard married Mary Schumacher on July 11, 1964, and they reside on the Berg Century Farm, where they raised four children.
Life on a farm in the early twentieth century was challenging but families were self-sufficient. The Bergs, like many farm families, raised most of their own food — eggs and chickens, milk and beef from their own cows, and vegetables from their garden.
In the early 1940s, the U.S. was just beginning to come out of the Great Depression, and many were looking forward to better times after a decade of hard times. Then came World War II that, obviously, affected all who lived and died, who married whom, and where people lived. The war meant that people had to put up with more hardships for the duration — however long it would take for the war to end.
Sadness struck the family when Ted Berg was taken ill with leukemia. After the illness of several years, he died on March 24, 1949, at the age of 52, leaving behind his wife, and four children, ages 11, 9, 7 and 4.
“The day Dad died was the day scheduled for his farm auction,” his sons recalled during a recent interview. The auction was postponed for a short time.
For two years, in 1949 and 1950, Evelyn Berg, rented the farmland to neighbors. “Those days everything was rented on shares,” Richard recalled. “You never knew what you were going to get.” They did know, however, that farm rent would not sustain them.
Mrs. Berg raised a large flock of chickens and sold the eggs for money to purchase groceries. She had a large strawberry patch, picked the berries and sold them for extra cash. “She was a strong woman. She worked very hard those days,” her sons said. “She saved $400 from the egg money to buy a grain elevator,” Fred recalled.
The Bergs bought their first tractor in the fall of 1949. In the fall of 1950, the boys plowed the fields and prepared to do the planting and farming in the spring. The boys were used to work; they had helped with chores around the farm as they were growing up. “Hard work never hurt people,” Fred commented.
In 1951, Evelyn and her sons, Fred,13, and Richard, 11, started farming. “We farmed 80 acres the first year,” Fred recalled, “160 acres the second year, and 240 acres the third year, besides going to high school.” They raised corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa. They also raised hogs, chickens, cattle (beef cows) and sheep.