One hundred years of farming the same plot of land within the family is no small feat. It should go without saying that farming is tough work that requires an inventive mind as well as an admirable stick-to-itiveness.
All of those qualities are certainly apparent at the Derscheid farm in Kenyon, which entered its 102nd year recently. David Derscheid is the latest in the line of three generations of farmers of the land in Richland Township in Rice County. David and his wife, Phyllis, have owned the land for the past 53 years, further cultivating the farming fabric within the family.
David’s grandfather, George, found the land through a real estate agent more than a 100 years ago and David’s father, Maurice, came into the land a year after returning from service in World War I. David grew up on the farm and learned farming from his father, who gained all of his knowledge from growing up on the family farm in Eagle Grove, Iowa.
David’s father, Maurice, took over the farm in 1918 from his father and at that time it was only about 280 acres but it had a three-year-old house along with a few buildings. It wasn’t until David took over in 1966 that the farm saw some big renovations.
David focused on a bit of livestock, primarily hogs and some steer, along with raising crops to carve out a niche with farming. He eventually expanded the farm to 335 acres and raised hogs, along with crops to continue the farming legacy.
The land proved not only a fertile place to farm but also an ideal spot to raise a family as David and Phyllis raised their children Daniel and Lynette. Daniel spent time with FFA and later became an engineer with John Deere in Ottumwa, Iowa, and Lynette became a pharmacist who lives in Eagan. David and Phyllis have five grandchildren to dote on and watch them participate in sports.
David and Phyllis met in Minneapolis after both moved there shortly after high school. David moved to the cities to attend the University of Minnesota and Dunwoody to learn more about agriculture and mechanics while Phyllis found work with Pillsbury as a secretary. David got to know her through his roommate, who went to school with Phyllis back in their hometown of Appleton, Minnesota, on the western edge of the state. David worked at Atlas Manufacturing, a sheet metal factory for a time, before returning to farming in Rice County.
David returned to the family farm and ran it while sharing it with his sister Lois. His brother, George, also moved nearby. David jokes that George lives in the next county over — Goodhue County — but it’s only about a half mile. The two partnered and shared farm equipment as they both embarked on farming careers.
At the time David came back to the farm he had to deal with a pasture that garnered a lot of the land. He decided to start farming the pasture acreage and add more livestock to turn a profit. He even added 40 acres of land after his father sold off the acreage.
The pasture transformation meant adding tileage in that spot and it ended up taking about four years to complete.
“That pasture was maybe a third of it,” David said. “This is heavy ground out here. Black soil and some of it you couldn’t drive through so you had to put it into pasture.”
The diversion into mechanical school came somewhat out of necessity since David’s father grew up using horses in the field and the family needed someone to fix machinery.
“My dad wasn’t really a good fixer,” David said. “He could fix horse harnesses and things like that. They relied on me to do some shop work.”
“David can fix anything,” Phyllis is quick to add.
David’s brother, Harvey, also got into farming, though he returned to Iowa to work on his grandfather’s farm. Harvey lives in Eagle Grove.
Phyllis grew up a family farm in Appleton and didn’t shy away from the tough farm work.
“I always enjoyed being outside,” she said. “I grew up on a farm so I knew what I was getting into.”
“She knew what the hogs smelled like,” David added.
They turned out to be a perfect farming couple and a drive by the farm today reveals an idyllic southeastern Minnesota farm that remains well kept, though the couple started renting the land more than a decade ago. David was 69 when he and Phyllis decided to hold an auction at the farm and he doesn’t miss the work except when he sees a new tractor passing by.
“Every time I see a nice new tractor I think 'why didn’t I hang on to the one I had,'” he said.