‘Farming is all about Change’

New Ulm, Sleepy Eye farmer Mark Rasmussen talks about the Ag business, history of his family’s operation

From left, Elroy, Ella, Oradell and Roy Backer who farmed at the Milford East farm that dated back to 1872. The farm was named a Sesquicentennial Farm at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair.

Farmer Mark Rasmussen of New Ulm continues to farm as he nears age 70.

He is the owner of two farms. A Sesquicentennial Farm (150 years in the same family) on his mother’s side of the family dates back to 1872 when John Backer bought Milford East, now an 80-acre farm several miles west of New Ulm.

Rasmussen is also the owner of a Century Farm on his father’s side of the family. Rasmus Rasmussen bought a farm on 290th Avenue, several miles northwest of Sleepy Eye. Mark’s son, Mathew, now lives on the farm several miles northwest of Sleepy Eye.

Mark Rasmussen spoke about farming these days. He grows corn and soybeans. He operated a hog finishing operation until April 2020.

“Farming is all about change. You need to be adaptive,” he said. “I managed to succeed in farming because of family, quality equipment and service. I have a great banker that knows my operations and a good agronomist at the local cooperative.”

Julie, left, and Mark Rasmussen stand next to a tractor and implement on Mark’s farm at 28823 290th Avenue, rural Sleepy Eye. The farm that dates back to 1907 was named a Century Farm at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair.

“I am humble and proud of the many decisions made by myself and ancestors to get to this point,” Rasmussen said. “Farming is my way of life, my lifestyle. It’s in my blood. You can have all the technology in the world, but Mother Nature and God are in control.”

On his mother’s side of the family, Mark Rasmussen’s great grandfather, John Backer, bought 400 acres in 1872 and moved to America from Seibelsdorf, Bavaria. He was a brick and tile manufacturer.

After farming 23 years, John’s son, Andrew, owned and farmed the land from 1895 to 1932.

Andrew’s son, Roy, owned and farmed from 1932 to 1985. Roy’s son, Elroy, owned the farm from 1985 to 2003, when Mark Rasmussen bought the farm.

The original Milford East farm home was distinctive and made of brick. It included many outbuildings.

Sleepy Eye farmer Mark Rasmussen stands in a cornfield.

“Cows were a common sight as you came into the yard,” Mark said. “An old windmill and brick silo dressed the place. There were pigs, chickens and eggs to tend to. Crops were planted with horse-drawn implements. Corn and small grain came later with more modern equipment.

“At harvest, an old Case Pull-type, two-row combine with 25 bushel hopper was used.”

Elroy Backer grew a large pumpkin patch. He sold pumpkins and other produce in New Ulm and the surrounding area. The farm was known as Mr. B’s King Pumpkin Ranch.

In honor of Elroy, Julie and Mark grew pumpkins, squash, tomatoes and sunflowers at the Backer farm. They collected barn roof rainwater to water the plants.

“As a young boy, I helped my grandparents at the Backer farm and helped my father at the home farm northwest of Sleepy Eye,” Mark said.

Elroy Backer stands near the entrance to his farm west of New Ulm. The farm was known as Mr. B’s King Pumpkin Ranch.

“We had livestock and crops. One spring, may dad asked if I wanted to plant with an M tractor and four-row planter. He went one round with me. After that, I planted the crops. I farmed on my own since 1975.”

Mark talked about farming in drought-stricken 1988.

“It was an absolute train wreck,” Mark said. “I know corn didn’t make 50 bushels an acre. Technology now is different. If you want to buy it, which I do, it’s amazing. We had some amazing corn even though it’s very dry this year. There’s a lot of scientific stuff now. I buy insect and rootworm protection in the seed, plus custom spraying.”

Mark and Julie Rasmussen live in New Ulm.

A painting depicting Mark Rasmussen’s Milford East farm about a century ago. The farm has been in the family since 1872.


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