Farm was site of area’s first corn crop

HUMBOLDT – Jason Simonsen is hesitant to refer to his grandfather as a pioneer, but in a way, that’s what he was.

Peter Simonsen came to Iowa as a teenager from Denmark, first settling in the Rolfe area.

He later was married and farmed for a few years around Dakota City before buying what is now a Century Farm three miles from Humboldt.

Jason Simonsen and his wife, Janet Simonsen, are the current owners of the family’s 200 acres, making him the third generation of his family to own the land.

When Peter and Juliana Simonsen purchased the farm, they lived in the existing smaller home. They took a financial risk and erected a corn crib that same year.

“He built a corn crib first in 1912. People thought he was foolish because no one had raised corn in the area before,” said Simonsen.

He doubled up a team of horses, Simonsen said, and plowed through the prairie grass and swamp as deep down into the soil as he could, planted corn and raised a good enough corn crop that he ended up filling that crib the first year.

Simonsen doesn’t want to necessarily call his grandfather a pioneer, as he believes the pioneers had settled land long before his grandfather, but is still honored that he took a chance on the land.

“I am proud of my grandpa for breaking the ground and making it the productive ground it is today,” said Simonsen.

Simonsen said his grandfather eventually built a barn in 1914, replacing a smaller structure, a hog house and later replaced the smaller house with the current house in 1918.

Livestock was a large part of the family farm for the first two generations on the farm.

Throughout the years, Jason Simonsen said, the family raised a dairy herd, a cow/calf herd, chickens, which were always the kids’ chores to gather the eggs, and, in later years, the pigs.

Livestock remained on the farm until the 1990s. Now the farm is home to some neighbors’ 4-H pigs.

“It’s nice to have some animals on the farm,” said Simonsen.

Simonsen said he has been told his grandfather was quite the great horseman, not only using his horses for work, but also had a team for driving into town.

Peter Simonsen’s surrey is on display at the Mill Farm Historical Museum in Humboldt. His grandson has seen it go through the city’s Fourth of July parade a time or two.

Some of the biggest changes Simonsen says he thinks his farm has been through are the yields he can raise.

“This farm has gone from raising no corn to raising 200-plus bushel an acre corn,” he said.

All three generations have lived on the farm and Simonsen said he hopes it remains in the family for some time to come.

“I have lived here my entire life and I always wanted to farm,” he said. “I had to take over for my dad at a young age and have been farming since I was 16 to 17 years old.”

The Simonsens accepted their Century Farm award last August at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.

After some tougher times he experienced in the 1980s, Simonsen is delighted to have kept his family’s farm together.

“We are fortunate,” he said. “We went through the 1980s, after going through those times, I didn’t think it would ever happen to me.”