Salute Wisconsin’s Century & Sesquicentennial Farms

Pictured: 2023 Centennial and Sesquicentennial Farms enjoy a celebratory breakfast and recognition at Wisconsin State Fair Park in August. Photo by Ryan Ebert.

Just imagine — leaving everything you’ve ever known to start a new life in a new country — raising 11 children while starting from scratch on an abandoned dairy farm in the early 1900s.

These are snippets of a Wisconsin family’s story in Manitowoc County. Debra Umnus and Tim Bartel are among roughly 100 farms to accept the Centennial Farm Award from the state of Wisconsin this year.

Mid-West Farm Report has a collection of these stories that we’re sharing with you courtesy of Compeer Financial. You can find our conversations with both Century and Sesquicentennial awardees here:

The state’s Century Farm Program honors about 100 properties each year. There have been more than 9,600 properties honored since the program began in 1948. The Sesquicentennial Farm & Home Award has honored more than 940 farms since 1998.

Umnus and Bartel say the orginal 80-acre dairy farmstead was purchased in 1909 by their grandfather, known as “One-eyed Bartel.” He had lost his eye after a dynamite accident while clearing the land. Debra and Tim’s father bought the farm in the 1940s and transitioned the farm into a cash cropping business. Today the farm continues to raise certified seed for other farmers. The barn that their grandfather built in 1923 still stands.

One of the families celebrating a Sesquicentennial Award from the state of Wisconsin belongs to Charles Larsen. His Brown County farm has a long history of tradition, both in farming and serving this country. He hopes the sixth generation continues the legacy, but says it’s best not to push the next generation into the business — a lesson passed down from several generations before him. Today the farm near Denmark, Wisconsin is a cash cropping operation that utilizes no-till and cover crops, and makes hay for area farmers.

Another Century Farm calls Price County home. For Joe Van De Voort’s family farm, the cows left in the 1980s, but he brought them back in the 2000s. Joe is the fourth generation on the 80-acre farmstead. And in order to continue the farm’s legacy as a dairy farm, he’s beginning to think about adding milk processing or a retail store to the operation for the fifth generation.

These are just three of many historical farm stories — some of these families rooted in Wisconsin since the state first began. Find more by clicking on the 2023 Wisconsin Century & Sesquicentennial Farm Salute tab: