Tucked between the fertile rolling hills northeast of Ossian, is a farm owned by a farmer belonging to a long lineage of Elsbernd farmers. They trace their farming roots all the way back to Germany. As husband and wife, Jim and Margaret Elsbernd, run their farming operation and raised their two sons together, as a team. They have been role models with their generous nature and family values, and above all, for the joy and laughter that they bring to any situation.
Lots of activity was happening at the Elsbernd farm when I visited one fall. The couple was out combining the last of the corn, with the help of neighbor, Bob Alford. Bob was hauling wagon loads to one of the bins, and George Tieskoetter was loading up a semi to run to Prairie du Chien, WI. The oldest of the Elsbernd’s sons, Richard, would be out soon to help too. Jim, Margaret, and Richard take turns driving the combine. Sometimes Margaret hauls the corn back home and fills the bins.
The corn moisture was 15% that day, dry enough to need very little—if any drying time. It’s a good day to be combining corn, and the neighbors are also out loading up a semi. Jim is happy to be out on the combine, on his land, doing what he was born to do. Ruth and the late Linus Elsbernd are our parents, we grew up on a home farm northeast of Calmar. The home farm is now owned by my other brother and sister-in-law, Keith and Sandy Elsbernd.
Shortly after graduating from De Sales High School in Ossian, Jim was drafted into the army. After completing his two year tour of duty in Germany, Jim joined his parents in their farming operation. Jim moved to the farm northeast of Ossian with his new bride in 1971, where they still farm today. While Jim was in the service, his parents bought the farm by Ossian, hoping one day Jim would have a safe return to northeast Iowa and farm there.
Jim and Margaret’s farm has some interesting history. Linus and Ruth Elsbernd purchased the farm from the Anderson sisters (Mildred, Clara, & Lillian) in 1966. The farm had been originally owned by the Web Rosa family. The Rosa’s were prominent people in the Frankville Township area, and are now buried in the Centennial Cemetery near the farm.
Jim and Margaret have two sons, Michael and Richard. As they grew up on the farm, they were able to learn much about responsibility, respect for the land, livestock and the value of working with others growing up on a farm. Michael and wife, Nichole, have a son named Ethan, and a daughter named Abby. Michael chose a career in music, having earned his DMA from the University of Michigan; the family now lives and works in South Dakota.
Oldest son, Richard, shares his father’s desire to farm. Richard and wife, Kay, own 110 acres of land. Richard has a degree in welding from NICC, and works for Reilly Construction as a welder in Ossian. The couple has one daughter, Julissa, and a son Anthony who loves to come to their grandparents’ farm.
Jim and Margaret remember the year 1977 as a challenging year. In August they lost their dairy barn, all their hay, and milking equipment, along with several small calves in a fire. Then Jim broke his arm and was in a cast until Thanksgiving weekend. The Elsbernd’s learned how important family and friends are, and with their help, they were able to build a new dairy barn before winter set in that year.
In 1984 the Elsbernd’s had the opportunity to purchase more land and in 2005, the final 100 acres from their original farm was purchased from Jim’s mother, Ruth. Jim and Margaret also rent additional cropland.
Easing up a bit, the couple discontinued milking cows in 2004. Since selling the dairy herd, the Elsbernd’s have concentrated more on their feeder cattle operation. Cattle are order bought for them by Tim Knutson of the Lanesboro Sales Commission. They are also learning the challenge of the grain market game.
Not so long ago, there were three generations of work boots lined up at their back door--Grandpa Linus, Dad Jim, and Grandson Richard. Now, some days when the grandchildren are at the farm, there is again three generations of boots on the steps. This is a rare and treasured sight to see in this day and age.
Although Linus’s boots are no longer alongside the others, it is still gratifying for this family to watch the continuation of a father and son working together at something that has always been the center of their lives and they feel Linus’s spirit with them when they are out working the land. It is truly a time to be thankful to farm here in Northeast Iowa.