A long, peaceful life in a quiet area of the county is the fortune of one commissioner’s family farm.
Mille Lacs County Commissioner Roger Tellinghuisen’s farm has been worked by his family for over 100 years.
In 2019 the family applied to have their farm certified as a century farm, knowing it had been in the family about 100 years. What they found out while preparing the application was that the farm had been in their family since 1901 — at that point 117 years.
The original owner in the family was John Hubers, who purchased the farm in 1901. Roger’s father Rudolf purchased the farm from John, who was his uncle, sometime in the late 1930s, according to Roger.
Rudolf was born in 1902, and never knew his father who died before he was born. His mother remarried into the Hubers family while he was still a kid. As Rudolf grew up, he decided to keep the family moniker and ended up the only surviving member of the Tellinghuisen name, according to Roger.
“He kind of had a tough childhood, and he kind of had a tough go at it for a long time and it’s probably was that determination that he had that I saw in him — I kind of made up my mind that I was going to be here until I couldn’t be either,” Roger said.
Roger described his father as a steady, determined man who worked hard.
Rudolf’s first marriage was to a woman named Serena. The couple had three kids, but Serena died in 1939 when she was 36, according to Roger.
He married Roger’s mother, Dorothy, in 1947 and they had four children.
It was in 1971, after Roger got back from basic training for the National Guard, that Rudolf asked him if he would like to work on the farm.
“I said I’ll try it for awhile, So the while got to be a long time,” Roger said.
Awhile has turned into his whole life. Roger only lived elsewhere during his training for the National Guard.
“Last month I turned 71 and this is the only house I ever lived in,” Roger said.
He highlighted the peaceful stability of the area where he lives off of a dead-end gravel road.
“You can’t find it much more quiet,” Roger said.
Roger married his wife Pat in 1974 and eventually bought the farm from Rudolf in 1979, he said. They have three kids Melissa, Michael and Makayala Wilcox and one granddaughter a five-year-old named Emily Wilcox.
In the early 2000’s Roger and Pat split of plots of land for each of their children. In 2018 Mike purchased a portion of the land from Roger. Now both of them work the farm.
Roger and Mike split work of the farm about 50/50 these days. Both work for the county, Mike as a foreman and Roger as a commissioner. Roger has served as District 4 commissioner for 15 years. Over the last five years he was the board chair as well, he said. Working for the county pairs well with working the farm, as they can work around their planting and harvesting schedules well, according to Roger.
The original farm produced dairy, hogs, chickens, corn, oats and hay, according to the century farm application.
Rudolf raised hogs and chickens, both laying hens and friars — young chickens raised exclusively for meat, but Roger decided he had plucked enough feathers for a lifetime.
“That’s when I decided the only good chicken was a fried chicken,” Roger said.
They also raised steers in a shed behind the barn while the farm raised dairy cattle. Roger held onto the steers for a few years after they phased out the dairy cows in 2004, but eventually got rid of them too when margins thinned.
Currently the family raises corn and beans and a little bit of hay on their property as well as two other farms they rent, according to Roger.
The original house still stands, though has been remodeled occasionally over the years. The basic floor plan remains largely the same as what Roger grew up with, he said.
The old barn also exists, with some exterior modifications to keep the building in shape.
“I don’t remember the year but we re-tinned the barn and covered the siding up because otherwise they just kind of fall down, and I didn’t want to see that either,” Roger said.
Roger hopes to keep the farm in the Tellinghuisen name, passing it on to Mike when he eventually stops working the land himself.