Tough year for farmers tops news in 2019
1. Tough year for farmers Like a boxer being knocked down several times, but keeps getting up and continues to fight, farmers showed the same resiliency this year. "Everything associated with farming this year was a fight," said Scott Dubbelde, General Manager of Farmers Cooperative Elevator. "But I also see optimism among the farmers for next year." Corn and bean harvests were down from an average year due to late planting and continued uncooperative conditions throughout the year. And because of weather-related issues, many farmers were forced to turn to prevented planting in order to get as much as they could squeeze out of mud-riddled fields. Prevented planting is the failure to plant an insured crop with the proper equipment by the final planting date or during the late planting season. First came a harsh winter that caused spring flooding, then came incessant rain, followed by more flooding in the summer. Then in the fall, wet fields made it nearly impossible for farmers to harvest their crops. When they finally were able to get into the fields, the harvest was late and many crops were wet, causing additional costs of drying that put even more of a squeeze on their budgets. "We had 60 inches of rain over the past two years," said Minneota farmer Rick Bot. "We had 32 inches this year. Normally, we get around 20 to 22 inches. That makes it tough for everyone to get into the fields." Rather than just leaving fields bare, some farmers planted cover crops such as radishes, turnips, oats and sorghum to prevent the soil from compacting too much. The oats and sorghum could be chopped or baled and used for feeding or bedding for livestock. Radishes and turnip could be left in the fields to assist in the reduction of compaction caused by equipment and/or grazing. "Farmers are going to be glad to see Dec. 31 on the calendar," said Dubbelde. "They are looking forward to a fresh start." And come spring, you can bet these farmers will again be there when the bell rings.
2. Packaging plant opens Many community members were thrilled to learn that the former Schott building would no longer stand empty as Chasing Our Tails, Inc. announced it had purchased the building from ADOM (Area Development of Minneota) and would be using it for a packaging and distribution warehouse. Stephen Trachtenberg moved his company from Hudson, New Hampshire, where it had operated for several years. Chasing Our Trails, Inc. produces single-ingredient and preservative-free pet products. "We have 165 products, all treats, including dehydrated, freeze-dried and smoked products," Trachtenberg told the Mascot. Trachtenberg purchased the former Schott building for $15,000 and also made a $5,000 donation to assist in other future community developments. Trachtenberg also started a manufacturing plant in Tracy and a meat processing facility in Sanborn. The packaging plant in Minneota is being managed by Trachtenberg's fiancée Elena Kalogeropoulos. "This is a clean building, has plenty of power, and a loading dock," Trachtenberg said. "And (Minneota) is a welcoming community." A caravan from New Hampshire began moving things into the building in mid-July and it was soon fully operational after that.
3. Water, water everywhere It seemed like everywhere you looked, there was water this spring. After the heavy snowfall last winter, Lyon County cities, townships, farms, and homeowners fought the impending flooding. In Minneota, the Yellow Medicine River overflowed its banks and the bridge leading into K.P. Kompelien Park was submerged in water, as was most of the park. When city workers cleared snow off streets and parking lots, much of the snow was dumped at the park. Sump pumps ran incessantly for weeks in residents' homes. Several county roads were flooded and traffic was rerouted for several weeks. Longtime residents said they hadn't seen that much snow or this type of flooding since 1968. The Lyon County Board declared a state of emergency for the flooding conditions in early April. "The flood event caused a significant amount of public property damage," said Lyon County Emergency Director Tammy VanOverbeke. "Conditions resulting in the flooding caused by the spring thaws in March were the reason for the designation."
4. First Responders doing the job When Minneota was faced with the possibility of losing ambulance service, the community stepped up and rallied to form a First Responders group. "Minneota is made up of a close-knit, kind, and caring people," said Emily Coequyt, who is Co-Director of the Minneota First Responders with Laura Swedzinski. Previously, North Memorial managed the city-run Minneota Ambulance service. When North Memorial and the City of Minneota terminated their contract, it was determined that Minneota would go from an ambulance service to a First Responders Group. Searching for volunteers by advertising and word of mouth, there are now 25 EMT's and/or First Responders involved in the group. The difference between EMT's and First Responders centers around the scope of practice and training hours. Those volunteering to become First Responders were required to complete 40 hours of training. The official date that Minneota First Responders were up and running was Jan. 8. Coequyt and Swedzinski had previously been on the ambulance team for 10 years. "Neither of us wanted to see the ambulance service go," Coequyt said. "We did a lot of talking amongst the two of us and with different City Council members and the City Administrator." Since running a responder service is costly, the group filed and became a 501c3 non-profit organization called Minneota First Responder Group, Inc. on June 4, enabling them to hold fundraisers. Being tax-exempt allows the Minneota First Responders to receive donations as a tax write-off.
5. Saving pool takes a village The City of Minneota was informed by Southwest Health and Human Services that the 50-year-old community swimming pool would not be able to operate following the 2019 season unless repairs were made. Those repairs included resurfacing both the kiddie pool and the adult pool. The estimated cost for both resurfacing projects was $235,000. Immediately after hearing the news, efforts were underway to raise the necessary funding. The City of Minneota stepped up and agreed to pay $35,000 for the kiddie pool resurfacing. One of the first fundraising efforts was an Adult Prom spearheaded by Amber Rodas and Steph Vlaminck, on March 30. The event was well attended and helped to get the community efforts to save the pool underway. A pork loin meal was served by Pool Pals and Youth of Hope at the Bethel Fellowship Hall, followed by a dance at the Legion Hall. Rob Anderson, a DJ from Marshall, provided the musical entertainment. Brian Jeremiason offered his services to take prom photos. Minneota native Casey McCoy, offered to utilize the culinary talents he acquired in college, and cook a meal for 10 people to whatever group bid the highest for his services at the Adult Prom. The meal was eventually served in November at the home of Gene and Brenda Verschelde and raised $500 for the pool. Several other fundraising efforts were also held throughout the year. One anonymous donor has offered to match $50,000 in donations, while another has agreed to pay 10 percent of the construction costs; approximately $24,000. After the kiddie pool was resurfaced, the City of Minneota received word that the pool could operate for the 2020 season as long as fundraising for the adult pool resurfacing reached its goal by the spring of 2021. Minneota residents have shown time and time again that they will band together for a good cause and raise the necessary money.
6. Burglars convicted, sentenced Eighteen months after two men broke into three Minneota businesses and stole money and other items, a jury convicted Ashjorn Kristian Idso of Wood Lake of second and third degree burglary in each incident on March 6. The other male involved in the burglaries, Tyler David Sowden of Marshall, pled guilty on July 31, 2018. Sowden was charged with burglary in the second degree. The charge of third-degree burglary was dropped as part of a plea deal. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail. The three Minneota businesses that the two males broke into in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 2017 were Minneota Building Materials, Gislason's Ace Hardware, and Bauer Automotive. A surveillance camera located at Brad's Market was paramount in preventing the two men from breaking into that business and eventually led to their apprehension. "Cameras don't lie," said Brad Minnehan of Brad's Market. "It is an inexpensive investment to protect your livelihood. I have had cameras in my store for seven years." Video footage showed the two men appeared to notice the camera, quickly attempted to conceal their identity, and then fled the scene. Police Chief Bill Bolt recognized Sowden from the video footage. Sowden was then located and arrested. The two men caused extensive damage in their forced entries of the three businesses, including damage to the doors and cash registers. Idso pled not guilty to the three counts of second and third degree burglaries and opted for his case to go to trial. The jury delivered a guilty verdict. Idso was sentenced to 180 days in jail on April 4 with credit for already serving 135 days. He was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised probation once he was released from jail. The two men were also ordered to pay $14,000 in restitution.
7. Dalager’s close business After being a fixture in the business district for the past 59 years, Dalager’s gas station and convenience store closed its doors on May 1. After purchasing the longtime business from Chuck and Linda Dalager 15 months earlier, Jeff and Erica Vierstraete decided to cease operating Dalager’s, a name they retained because of its familiarity with those in the community. Chuck and Linda Dalager owned the business on North Madison Street for 35 years until selling it to the Vierstraetes on Jan. 1, 2018. Chuck's parents, Chester and Evelyn Dalager, originally began the business in 1960 and operated it as one of the first convenience-type stores in the area, selling gasoline, groceries and other items. Chuck worked for his parents by pumping gas, checking oil, and washing windshields until he eventually took over the business in 1983. Over the years, the Dalager’s became well known for the hot pizza it sold."I'm really going to miss that pizza," one customer remarked upon hearing the news of the business closing. The building remained empty as 2019 came to a close.
8. Eye sore was dangerous During a City Council meeting on May 13, council members decided to assist a city property owner in fixing a "potentially dangerous" problem on Jefferson Street. Omer Laleman secured 65 signatures on a petition in his neighborhood against a house that was moved next to his two years ago. The "unsightly" house sat on a wooden basement structure and no improvements were made in the two years. The back yard of the property was piled high with dirt and there was a large and dangerous hole in the yard. Councilman Tim Koppien called it "an eyesore". Laleman requested assistance in taking care of what he considered a safety hazard. The owner of the property, Melvin Breyfogle, had been served with papers indicating the need to make improvements. Breyfogle purchased the house from the school district for $1 and had help in moving it to the site. But he told the council members that he had financially been unable to improve the property. In October, the City Council moved ahead to assist Breyfogle in improving the property. After a failed attempt by the City of Minneota to help Breyfogle secure financing, the council told City Administrator Shirley Teigland to proceed in hiring contractors to fix the basement with a concrete floor and alleviate the danger.
9. Curbside recycling continues After nearly two months of uncertainty, Lyon County Board of Commissioners approved the continuation of curbside recycling on Oct. 22. The Board of Commissioners called a special meeting and finalized an agreement with Southwest Sanitation of Marshall for curbside recycling for the entire county. With the public expressing the importance of having curbside recycling, the Lyon County Board approved a one-month extension contract with Southwest Sanitation on Oct. 1. That allowed the board additional time to work out the details of a final agreement to continue curbside recycling, which allows homeowners who don't have time or access to take their recyclables into a recycling center or drop-off sites. Environmental Director Roger Schroeder continued to work with Southwest Sanitation for the curbside recycling pickup, including apartment pickup on a bi-weekly basis. Because recycling collectors had raised their rates in an effort to make the business profitable, the Lyon County Board of Commissioners was reluctant to pay those prices, thus shutting down curbside pickup. Eventually, a public hearing was held and the public expressed their concerns. "Raise the rates, but give us curbside service," was the overwhelming reaction to the board's previous action not to accept what were very high recycling bids. In other words, the public indicated that preferred to pay more on their tax bills and have recycling pickup at their homes than to take their recyclables to drop-off sites.
10. Students learn from home Winter was brutal in the early months of 2019, forcing school to be closed numerous times. When all the allotted "snow days" were used up, students in past years would be required to make up those days during pre-determined vacation days or at the end of the school year. But with this being the digital age, Minneota went with the e-learning program in which students could learn from home. "The e-learning days count as full school days," High School Principal Jeremy Frie noted. This was the first year that Minneota Public School implemented the e-learning process and students, faculty and administrators all seemed to feel it went better than expected. The Minnesota Department of Education allows five e-learning days in a school year. And schools are required to have a minimum of 165 instructional days in a given school year. "It's nice to not have to make up days of school," said Nolan Boerboom last Februrary when he was a junior. "And I think (e-learning) helps keep us fresh on the things we have already been studying." Teachers gave assignments to the home-bound students in grades 7-12 on their school-issued devices, while K-6 students worked on hard-copy assignments prepared ahead of time. Students can also access the content through a home computer. Daily assignments are put online through Google Classroom by various instructors and students can access them there. Teachers are available to assist students via Google and e-mail throughout the day.
School locker rooms renovated - The first of four public school renovation phases began in April with the dismantling of the boys and girls locker rooms. The inner walls of the locker room area were knocked out, the floors were torn up, and the ceiling removed by Kranz Construction of Milan. Construction crews worked later in the afternoons and on some weekends in order to not disrupt classrooms when school was in session. The new boys and girls locker rooms include "privacy" showers, while also added was a visitors locker room with two showers and a storage area. The locker room renovations also included new plumbing, new tiles on the walls and floors that were completed in the fall. Other renovation projects began once school was dismissed for the school year, including a five-stall garage for school vehicles, renovation of the practice gymnasium, and the replacement of 35,000 square feet of floor tiles in some of the halls and several high school and elementary classrooms.
Anundsons called to SMSU Hall - Kevin and Karla Anundson of Minneota were among those inducted into the Southwest Minnesota State University Athletics Hall of Honor on Feb. 2. The Anundsons were inducted into the Hall of Honor in the Community Members category. They were both student-athletes at SMSU and have been avid supporters of the college, as well as being active members of the Mustangs Booster Club.
DeSmet All-Academic with Distinction - Sara DeSmet was one of five student-athletes from SMSU to have earned the distinguished Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference's Myles Brand All-Academic with Distinction Award. DeSmet is a 2015 Minneota graduate. The award is presented to senior student-athletes who have amassed a cumulative grade-point-average of 3.75 or higher, and on track to graduate.
New massage/bodywork business opens - Josue Leos opened a new massage and bodywork business in the Prairie Winds Wellness building on Feb. 4. Leos, a 2015 Minneota graduate, attended Broadview University in Sioux Falls to become a massage therapist because, "he liked the idea of helping others relieve their pain and discomfort."
Time to light up the city - The City of Minneota became a little brighter when Ottertail Power replaced all the old street lights with LED lights at no cost. Monthly cost to the city increased $22 per month.
Better safe than sorry - After receiving a vintage World War I artillery shell in his office from an unknown source, Police Chief had no recourse but to call the bomb squad. After receiving a photo and a description from Bolt, the Bloomington Police Department sent two members of its bomb squad to travel to Minneota in a snowstorm to make sure the bomb posed no danger to anyone. Upon inspection, the officers determined the shell had been fired from an artillery cannon. An X-ray of the shell showed it was empty, and the removal of the top of the shell showed the fuse had previously been used.
Knowledge Bowl team saved - After an unsuccessful attempt to find a coach, leaving the Minneota Knowledge Bowl program in jeopardy, Sara Fier stepped up. Fier, a psychologist, sports psychologist, and professor at SMSU, has had two sons on the Knowledge Bowl team at Minneota. She indicated that, "I wasn't okay with Knowledge Bowl not happening if I could do something about it."
Esping named golf course GM - Facing trying times due to the declining number of golfers, Countryside Golf Course hired Tony Esping as general manager. Esping grew up in Minneota and wanted to do what he could to help keep the golf course open. Esping is continuing his full-time job as a parole officer in southern Minnesota. He has had prior experience in the food and beverage industry and is utilizing those skills to help out the golf course.
Roofs falling down - With heavy snow and ice accumulating in the winter months of 2019, roofs began caving in around the area. In early March, Ken DeBaere of Doyle Insurance reported that his phone was ringing often with calls from property owners wondering if they were covered if their roof collapsed. Several older sheds and a few barns collapsed in the area.
AgPlus formed - After nearly two years in the making, the unification agreement between Farmers Cooperative of Canby, Lyon County Farm Service of Ghent, and Prairie Pride Cooperative of Marshall was approved by their members. Those three cooperatives have locations in the communities of Canby, Minneota, Ghent, Ivanhoe, Marshall and Slayton. The outcome of the voting was announced at a special meeting of each cooperative's members on March 21. The merger officially took place on Aug. 1, 2019 as is now referred to as AgPlus.
Speech team makes 'state'-ment - The Minneota Speech team sent six individuals to the state meet after a strong showing at the Section 3A meet at Southwest State Minnesota University on April 6. Brenden Kimpe, a three-time state qualifier, advanced to state this year in Extemporaneous Speaking. Sean Dilley, also a three-time state entrant, advanced in Informative. Also advancing to state were Natalie Bot and Tara Thooft in Duo, Jacob Haen in Humorous, and Zoe DeBoer in Storytelling. The state meet was held April 12 in Wayzata. DeBoer finished third at state, while Dilley and Haen each placed sixth.
Gades is 3A Speech Coach of Year - Minneota Speech Coach Kim Gades was named the Section 3A Coach of the Year in a vote by her peers. Gades, a first-grade teacher, has coached the speech team for the last seven years along with assistant coach Amanda Engels.
FCCLA gals bring home national hardware - Natalie Bot and Tara Thooft earned a STAR event gold medal for the third straight year at the FCCLA National Convention in early July in Anaheim, CA. Molly Krog also won her third straight gold medal, while Kate Hennen and Grace Hennen earned a silver medal. Bot and Thooft won gold in the Innovative Foods category, Krog won in the Career Investigation category, and the Hennens won in the Sports Nutrition category.
Travis a Ms. Wesleyan nominee - Meghan Travis was one of six female students at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, SD, to be nominated for the prestigious Ms. Wesleyan Award. Travis, a Minneota graduate, was a double-major in Biochemistry and Psychology. Each of the finalists were nominated by a faculty member at the university and were required to submit a biography outlining their personal achievements.
Ghent ice rink cometh - After getting approval from the Ghent City Council, the planned project to renovate the community ice rink on the corner of English Street and Highway 68 moved forward. Committee members Bill and Jodi Maertens, Adam and Chassidy DeRoode, and Mike Stassen worked feverishly to raise the funds to replace the concrete flooring, replace the old dilapidated boards, have a new warming house built, and a few other added repairs. This summer, basketball poles and backboards were added. And when the cold weather eventually moved in, the rink was flooded and skaters enjoyed the new rink and warming house. For those without skates, several pairs were available in the warming house to use free of charge.
Milo Kern, oldest veteran, passes - Milo Kern, who was an American Legion Post 199 member for 73 years, passed away on July 1. He was 103 years old. Kern was well known for his time served on a destroyer in the U.S. Navy. He was the lone survivor when his ship was sunk while he was off-board receiving medical care.
City clerk leaves; replacement named - Minneota City Clerk Alexis Ramirez resigned her position after five years to move to Rifle, Colorado with her husband, Alvaro, and their two children, Isaiah and Emily. Minneota native Laurie Laleman, who recently finished her Associate Degree in Accounting at Rasmussen Business College, was hired as the new Minneota City Clerk.
Bot gets Community Service award - The Minneota Rotary Club presented Eric Bot of ADOM (Area Development of Minneota) with their annual Community Service Award for his part in bringing the "Chasing Our Tails" pet treat company to town. The company now houses its shipping arm of the business in the former Schott building.
Stassen Farm name recognized as Century Farm - The Stassen Farm of Taunton was one of three farms in Lyon County recognized as a Century Farm. The Minnesota Century Farm program is sponsored by Farm Bureau and the Minnesota State Fair. Eric and Ann (Engels) Guttormsson have owned the farm the past 22 years; Ann represents the fifth generation of family to have farmed the land outside Taunton in Eidsvold Township. Ann and her mother, Rita Engels, accepted the Century Farm recognition sign at the Lyon County Fair this summer.
Gislason joins Cardinal Hall - Minneota native and longtime Willmar businessman Walt Gislason was inducted into the Willmar Cardinal Pride Hall of Fame during this fall. Gislason was inducted with two other men during Willmar's Homecoming festivities. Gislason was one of Willmar's most popular citizens. He owned Walt's, a service station along Highway 71 that included a gas station, convenience store, car wash and oil change center. And he was a major contributor to hundreds of fundraising efforts throughout the community. He and his wife, Raeanna, now reside in Wayzata.
Verhelst retires; Corbin is new postmaster - Lois Verhelst, who was the Minneota Postmaster for six years, retired on Sept. 30. Known for her wise-cracking and jovial personality, Verhelst joked that she was retiring, "Because I'm ancient". She lives in Canby with her husband, Mark, who owns and operates Verhelst Trucking. Clark Corbin was hired as the new postmaster. Corbin, who lives in Minneota, had been the Canby Postmaster for the past 3 1/2 years. Corbin, who grew up in Sioux Center, IA, becomes the 11th postmaster in Minneota.
Krog to nationals - Minneota senior Molly Krog, representing Ivanhoe, was named the winner of the Minnesota Distinguished Young Women scholarship program on Nov. 10 in Burnsville. Formerly called America's Junior Miss, Distinguished Young Women is not a pageant, but rather a national non-profit organization that provides scholarships to high school senior girls. Each of the 50 states holds a Distinguished Young Women program. Krog advances to the national competition next summer in Mobile, AL. Kim Bloch of Ivanhoe, also a Minneota High School senior, was also a state finalist.
Bolts buy Lake Benton grocery store - Bill and Kelly Bolt of Minneota announced in late November that they signed a purchase agreement to buy the Lake Benton Grocery Store. Bill will remain the Minneota Police Chief and fully intends, while Kelly will be in charge of operations of the store. The Bolts, who will continue to live in Minneota, are purchasing the grocery store from Al and Tami Trigg, who have owned it for the past six years.