Lonsdale authors Gordon and Nancy Fredrickson set out to write a book about a topic they know well, farm country haying, but in the writing process, they learned even more than expected.
Organized into five parts, “A Farm Country Haying” celebrates the various methods of haying used today and in the past, along with the memories that go with the practice. Gordon and Nancy began their project in 2016 and expected to finish it the following year, but as they dove deeper into their subject matter, their timeline extended. Their finished product, a collection of over 330 color pages of stories, photographs and illustrations, is now available to own.
“We really didn’t know precisely where it was going, and we just kept getting more photos submitted and we kept getting more stories submitted,” Gordon said. “One of the reasons it took us so long is we were hesitant to do a cutoff.”
Gordon and Nancy initially reached out to friends and family to compile photographs and stories associated with haying. But after the Upper Midwest Allis-Chalmers Club received word from Gordon about his project, and released a request for stories about haying, the Fredricksons heard from farmers across the United State and into Canada. One story even came from a woman in Minnesota who married a farmer from England. Over 100 contributors submitted personal memories and farm art to the Fredricksons’ collection — and that’s just in Part Four.
The Fredricksons agreed that the connections they formed while compiling information for “A Farm Country Haying” made the experience particularly rewarding; Gordon recalls talking on the phone for over an hour each time he called a contributor in his 90s from the Sandhills of Nebraska. Six contributors died before they could read their stories in print, which Nancy considers one of the saddest parts about taking four years to complete the book. However, she knows the contributors’ families are grateful to have copies.
Something for everyone
The Fredricksons met up with different haymakers in the summer of 2017 for the second section of their book. The first haymakers Gordon contacted, Jerry and Kathy Willemssen of Lakeville, own the property where he attended country school as a boy. They use small square bales and a pulled rack behind the baler — a method Gordon would have considered modern as a child. He also received recommendations to contact two haymakers in Plainview — one who makes round bales and one who makes large square bales. A fourth haymaker from Nysser, Oregon connected with the Fredricksons after reading the Allis-Chalmers news release. To Gordon’s delight, this haymaker used a stacking method uncommon in the Midwest.
“A Farm Country Haying” may appeal to children as well. In the third section of the book, the Fredricksons incorporated a rhyming story about haying on a small farm in the 1950s, using the same characters in their “A Farm Country” picture book series. This portion includes illustrated pictures by Sidona Malz, an art teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Faribault.
In the fifth and final section of their book, the Fredricksons include descriptions and photographs of the evolution of farm equipment as showcased at the Upper Midwest Allis-Chalmer Club’s Orange Spectacular. This section also illustrates the invention of the first round baler.
“… Gordy and Nancy did an incredible job of writing the history,” said Vicki Andren, an early reader. “I think a lot of people will appreciate it … especially the farmers who have lived through it, and many of the farm practices are now obsolete and perhaps would be ‘lost’ without this historical book.”
The Fredricksons agreed “A Farm Country Haying” will be the last book of its kind that they write, but they plan to continue writing prose and poetry. Nancy said she still collects copies of old farm photos and takes many herself. If not for the pandemic, she would share binders of photos at farm shows during the summer.
Since “A Farm Country Haying” was released in April, Gordon and Nancy have needed to navigate marketing challenges during the pandemic. Farm shows, where they usually sell their books, were canceled this summer. Gordon often makes visits to local schools as well, but new visitor restrictions eliminate that possibility this year. However, the Fredricksons don’t doubt there is an audience for their latest work.
“People around here seem to be pretty proud of their heritage,” Nancy observed. “… [They] seem to be quite proud of preserving these [historical] pieces, which is great.”
Gordon explained that their purpose of writing farm literature is to preserve American farm heritage, promote farm pride and tell stories of agriculture that may disappear if they remain untold.
“That purpose has not changed from when I started writing in 2000,” Gordon said. “To entertain people and show what it’s like to be a farm kid.”
Rice County’s Board of Commissioners has gone all in in a push for state funding to improve safety at one of the area’s most difficult intersections.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the county board officially approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to review, develop and fine tune a proposed roundabout. The county will spend $33,000 for the work. In return, MnDOT will cover the remainder, estimated to be around $67,000.
The roundabout is intended to improve traffic flow at the Interstate 35 and Hwy. 19 interchange, long a top county priority. Last fall MnDOT finally initiated and funded a safety analysis which found the roundabout to be the best solution based on traffic flow and projections on the easter portion of the interchange. Though MnDOT officials haven’t yet made a funding commitment to the project, instead directing the county to apply for the competitive programs, Commissioner Galen Malecha expressed relief that the department finally seemed to be taking the project seriously.
“I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel and MnDOT has come to their senses,” he said. “But, it has taken a long time.”
The county board has hammered MnDOT officials for years about the need to upgrade that portion of the interchange. The west side, with the Flying J Travel Center, MnDOT salt shed, and park and ride lot, has long had a traffic signal. But the eastern portion, particularly the northbound exit ramp, is often backed up for motorists looking to turn left.
“Anyone who travels that road knows how congested it can be early in the morning and late in the afternoon, especially after 3 o’clock,” said Commissioner Jeff Docken.
County Engineer Dennis Luebbe noted that traffic has increased substantially since Pilot Corporation bought the Flying J and expanded it. With heavy truck traffic at the intersection, it’s a challenge for drivers to navigate.
“(The current setup) causes some confusion and triggers drivers to weave through the area,” he said. “That’s not good when you have heavy traffic volumes.”
A total of six exit and entrance ramps would be included in the proposed roundabout, enabling easy access to and from I-35, Hwy 19 and several area frontage roads that have been considered possible sites for economic development.
Once the design review is complete, the county will have formal, site-specific plans for a functional roundabout. However, the county isn’t waiting for the review to complete before seeking federal and state dollars.
Loath to invest its own dollars in a project that would primarily improve a trunk highway and interstate, the board hopes to limit its investment in the project to about 10% of $3 million project estimate.
With dollars at the state and federal levels limited, that’s proven a hefty challenge for other local government entities. Malecha cited the experience of neighboring Dakota County, which was eventually forced to pour its own dollars into a similar project.
While MnDOT has pledged to support the project, that has not extended to any specific funding commitments. The county will apply for a combined $1.6 million from two MnDOT pots of money, but will be up against plenty of other competitive projects.
Of that, $900,000 has been requested from MnDOT’s District 6 Partnership Program. That’s the entire yearly budget of the program, and the county will have to compete against projects from 10 other counties in southeast Minnesota. Another $700,000 will be requested from the Transportation Economic Development grant program, out of a total of $1.85 million available in the program. The county will compete with even more counties for these dollars, with all but the seven metro counties eligible to apply.
Finally, Luebbe is applying for $1.1 million in federal funding, out of a total of $13 million available. All three applications will announce project recipients within the next couple of months, so the county will soon find out if the money will be available.
If everything goes well, Luebbe said construction could start on the project by summer of 2022. If at least one of the funding applications falls through, he said the county will need to work with MnDOT to assess a path forward.
One potential solution could be state bonding. Luebbe told the board that he’s written to the House and Senate committees asking them to pass a bonding bill. While the roundabout hasn’t been included in bonding previously, he said he would make a push for it.
However, legislators have struggled in recent years to come to a consensus on a bonding bill, which requires approval by a 3/5ths supermajority of both houses of the legislature, a situation that drew Malecha’s ire.
“It’s unfortunate that the Legislature has to play games at the Capitol,” he said. “We have real needs here.”
If it’s dinnertime in Lonsdale, vehicles likely fill the parking lot at 115 Railway St. SW, home of the latest barbecue restaurant in Rice County.
It’s clear from the turnout that Smoke BBQ was worth the wait for Lonsdale residents, who wondered when the new business would open ever since owner Andrew Rasmusessen made his plans public in the spring.
“It’s been very busy,” Rasmussen said three weeks after Smoke’s Sept. 9 opening. “There’s times when we’re on three-hour waits for our walk-ins. We’re usually dealing with 100 to 150 phone calls a day. We’re really thankful for the community and how well we’ve been received. It encourages us to improve on our end to keep up with the demand.”
Hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, but Rasmussen hopes to open the restaurant for 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. lunch hours Tuesday through Sunday, as well as evening hours on Sunday, by October.
Smoke currently serves a capacity load of 44 customers at a time — that’s 22 seats indoors and 22 outdoors. Rasmussen accepts reservations as the preferred method as well as walk-ins when applicable, and the crew tries to keep tables full to the set capacity as often as possible.
“We’re not a big corporation, so all these weeks have been a big learning curb for everyone involved,” Rasmussen said. “At this point, we feel that we understand what our demand is, and we’re streamlining the kitchen to the best of our ability.”
Smoke’s current staff meets the limited capacity needs, but as Rasmussen increases business hours to include lunch, his staff demand will also increase. Quite a number of interested individuals already submitted applications for daytime shifts, he said.
Supporting local businesses is a big priority for Rasmussen and his crew, so he sourced some of his meat products from Lonsdale Country Market. Rasmussen also wants to give special recognition to Josh Munk of Plummet Tree Experts, where Smoke sourced its wood.
Rasmussen said it goes without question that the bacon mac and cheese take the title of most popular menu item, at least for now. Other hits include brisket, pork belly burnt ends, and smoked caramel apple dessert.
As for the beer menu, bartender Shawn Ambuehl said, “Our goal is to have the best beers we possibly can from the metro. Andrew and I have great relationships with brewers, and we’re thankful we can bring their product in to showcase their talents.”
On a Thursday evening, the Wayne and Jeanie Vosejpka family decided to check out Smoke for the first time. Before the adults ordered for themselves, Jillian Vosejpka, holding her son, Shef, said the chicken tenders and fries are “kid-approved.”
“I heard great things from people in the community, even from my New Prague co-workers,” Chad Vosejpka said while deciding what to order. He listed pork belly burnt ends and brisket among a number of items he wanted to try.
Knowing their stomachs could only handle so much at one time, Jeannie said, “We’ll be back again for more.”