WASECA — Jeff Ruedy has never lived far from the family farm where he now lives and that he now farms.
“I came home to this house from the hospital,” said Ruedy, who was born in 1952.
And the farthest away that he ever lived from that house in rural Waseca County was about a half mile.
But the same cannot be said for his forefathers and –mothers, some of whom came from half a world to establish the family farm that would house their family for a century.
The Ruedy Family Fame was recognized this year as a century farm because it has been in the family for 100 years. However, you have to go back several generations to see how they got there.
The trek started in Switzerland with Ruedy’s great-great-great-grandfather who came to the United States, with his family eventually winding up in Sauk County, Wisconsin. From there, his great-great-grandfather, Christian Ruedy, made the move to Waseca County in 1866 to a farm not far from where the Ruedy Family Farm sits now and near to what is old Highway 14 in the Woodville Township the east of Waseca County. Helping in the move was Valentine Ruedy, Jeff Ruedy’s great-grandfather.
“He was just a kid at the time,” Jeff Ruedy said.
Cemetery records show that he was just 3 years old when the family made the move.
According to the obituary of Florian Ruedy, Valentine’s older brother Florian, the Ruedy family made the sojourn to Waseca County in a covered wagon.
Valentine Ruedy grew up on a farm in Waseca County, though it was not the farm on which the Ruedy family now lives. When he grew older, he married Louise Korupp, and to that union two boys were born — Wallace and Ward.
“There were two sons, but only one farm,” said Jeff Ruedy.
Wallace was the older of the two boys, so when it came time for what was then the family farm to be passed on to Valentine’s heir, that farm went to Wallace. But that doesn’t mean that Valentine left his other son without a place.
According to Jeff Ruedy, when Ward Ruedy got married to Magdalena Beck in 1919, his father, Valentine, made a down payment on a second farm — 160 acres not far from the first farm. Ward Ruedy was Jeff Ruedy’s grandfather, and that second farm — the one on which Valentine made the down payment when Ward married Magdalena — would become the Ruedy Family Farm.
The two brothers, Wallace and Ward, worked both farms, with both brothers contributing together to pay off the second farm, Jeff Ruedy said.
“That was the old way of doing it,” he said.
Ward and Magdelena Ruedy had two children, both boys — Warren and Laurence. Ward sold the farm to his son Laurence in 1977, though Laurence and his bride Georgena had been farming on the land since the time they were married in 1948.
Laurence and Georgena Ruedy had four children, daughter Loretta and sons Jeff, Craig and Brad. Laurence continued to farm the land until 1991, when he turned 61, selling the farm to his eldest son, Jeff, though Jeff and his wife Ann have lived and worked on the farm since they were married in 1973.
Over the years, the farm has seen a lot of changes, which is to be expected in 100 years of history.
For one thing, the farm has grown from its original 160 acres to just over 600 acres now, Jeff Ruedy said.
“Grandpa bought a couple of farms, and Dad bought some more,” he said, adding that he, too, had added more land to the family farm. “Each of us added some.”
But the additions weren’t the only changes that he’s seen.
At first, he said, the farm was a “traditional” farm with chickens, hogs and dairy cows in addition to the crops the family raised.
“The chickens were the first to go,” he said, adding that the family stopped raising chickens when he was a little boy back in the 1950s.
The family suspended its dairy operation in 1979, he said, and ceased raising hogs sometime in the 1990s. And given today’s way of raising hogs, he’s not sure he would ever go back.
“I’m not a big believer in the totally confined hog set up,” he said. “When I had mine, they’d go out in the sunshine.”
And, of course, the farm itself has seen the rise of technology that has forever altered farming. When his grandfather started farming there, the farm still used horses to power whatever equipment they had. Over the years that has changed to farm machinery that comes with much advanced technology.
“I’ve seen machines that are much bigger and come with computers,” he said.
Then there have been the changes in genetics, especially the improvement in genetics in corn and soybeans, the only crops he raises now.
“The average yield today is much higher,” he said.
He recalled when he was young and in school, he used a few acres of his father’s land for an FFA project.
“Back then you figured if you cracked 100 bushels, you did good,” he said. But that has changed with advances in genetics that has changed. “Now if you get 100 bushels, you wonder, ‘What did I do wrong?’”
Jeff Ruedy doesn’t know what the future holds for the family farm, though he’s fairly certain that he and his wife will be the last ones with the Ruedy name to actually farm the land. Jeff and Ann have two children, a son who is an attorney in Alaska and a daughter who heads up the alternative learning center for New Prague public schools.
“Neither of them seems interested in farming,” he said, then paused. “It’s a way of life, but there are a lot easier ways to make a living.”
There have been other family members — a nephew on his wife’s side, a cousin — who have expressed an interest in renting the land to farm, as has a neighbor, he said. And if they rent the land out, the farm will still stay in the family.
But even as Jeff Ruedy nears 70, he’s not ready to give up farming yet.
“I’ll keep going as long as I feel good and enjoy farming,” he said.