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scenic red barn with tractors and tank in barnyard Lon Tonneson
LONG LASTING: A Century Farm has seen tough times come and go.

Century Farms inspire hopes of future prosperity

Inside Dakota Ag: South Dakota’s latest Century Farm honorees are proof hard times can and will pass.

Given all the current bad news about the farm economy, I was encouraged by the recent South Dakota Century Farm announcements.

With the 2019 inductees, six farms and ranches in the state have been recognized as being owned by the same family for 150 years. More than 3,000 have been in the same family 100 years or more.

The farms that were recognized this year with the Sesquicentennial (150 year) Award would have been purchased or homesteaded in or before 1868.

What was happening in 1868?

According to one history of Union County, S.D., where one of the farms was located, 1860-1880 was the best of times and the worst of times.

There were some great crops, but there also many disasters — grasshopper plagues, a national financial collapse and devastating spring and summer floods on the Big Sioux and Missouri rivers. Sound familiar?

Some homesteaders gave up their land claims and moved back East.

Even in the darkest times, though, there were signs of progress and the promise of prosperity. The continental railroad was completed in 1869, opening new markets. After experiencing many failures, farmers were learning which grains, vegetables and fruits thrived in the Dakotas. The Cornbelt was expanding north and west from Nebraska and Iowa.

Edward Elliott Collins wrote in “A History of Union County, S.D. to 1880” that there was great suffering, “but those who weathered the storm were richly rewarded during the subsequent years.”

Will the same be said of those who survive the floods, blizzards, low prices and trade wars of today? Will you be richly rewarded in subsequent years? I trust you will.

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