Family farm is a Heritage Farm

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Elaine Bleam and John Walstrom, seated, look over some family history with Clay Bleam (left) and Jack Walstrom.

MANSON — The sixth generation of the Walstrom family is preparing to step up to take over the family farm as the prior generation gets ready to step down this year.

It’s quite the responsibility, considering the fact the farm is now 150 years old.

“I consider myself lucky,” said Jack Walstrom, who will take over farming for his father, John Walstrom, this year. “Not many people have a farm that has been in their family for this long. And not many 22-year-olds have that opportunity.”

Jack Walstrom is an agronomy sales technician for NEW Cooperative in Knierim. He plans to remain in that position in addition to taking over the family farm.

“I hope it works for him and I hope someday he can add to the farm,” said John Walstrom.

The farm was purchased by John Walstrom’s great-great grandfather, David Bleam, in 1868.

Elaine Bleam, whose late husband Donald was a descendent of David Bleam’s, has kept much of the family’s history. In that history, Elaine Bleam said her husband’s ancestor homesteaded the land in 1868, only to have to repurchase it from the Swampland Company after they had claimed to have ownership prior to his homesteading.

Bleam came from Pennsylvania. He learned a “miller’s trade,” according to Elaine Bleam, and worked in that profession for about 10 years.

He married his wife, Katherine, in 1858 and together they made their way to Iowa; first in Keokuk County, then to Benton County, farming there for four years before making their move to their final destination in Calhoun County.

The second generation

David and Katherine Bleam’s son, Charles Bleam, was the next in the family to take over the farm. He and his wife, Alma, had three children — Floyd, Mamie and Emory — before he passed away in 1897.

“She was left with three kids, all under the age of 5, to raise,” said John Walstrom.

Not only was she able to raise her young family alone, but Alma Bleam was instrumental in growing the family’s farm, eventually building a new house and a barn.

Walstrom said he believes Bleam’s brothers helped her with the farming operation.

“I have so much pride in the fact that Alma kept the farm going,” said Walstrom.

The third generation

Floyd Bleam, Walstrom’s grandfather, had decided to work off of the family farm as a hog buyer in the nearby town of Manson. Although he wasn’t active on his family’s farm, he was next to acquire the land.

Bleam and his wife, Lucy, farmed the land for awhile before they decided to give up farming to seek income elsewhere.

“They farmed until things got tough,” Walstrom said. “This was during the Depression era.”

Floyd and Lucy Bleam made the decision to rent out the farm ground, which the family believes essentially allowed for them to be able to keep it.

Walstrom said his grandfather was an intelligent person, despite never graduating from high school.

“He did what he needed to, to hold onto the farm,” he said.

Fourth generation

Floyd and Lucy Bleam’s daughter, Eleanor Bleam-Walstrom, was next in line to own the farm.

She remains the farm’s owner today.

Eleanor and Floyd Walstrom, John Walstrom’s parents, didn’t farm the family’s land, and even though his grandparents didn’t either, he still has memories of being at his family’s farm while growing up.

“I used to go with my grandfather to the farm,” Walstrom said. “He had livestock and I would get to help with the chores.”

Fifth generation

It was those times on the farm while growing up that gave Walstrom the desire to take over the operation of the family’s farm.

He left for a bit after high school and, upon returning to the Manson area, he began working to earn the money and equipment before approaching his grandfather to ask about taking over the family farm.

Walstrom said his father suggested he go about it that way.

“My grandpa died before I could talk to him,” he said.

That was in 1975. Two years later, Walstrom said he was able to start farming his family’s land, which came after several decades of someone outside of the Bleam-Walstrom family tending the land.

“I wanted to farm because of the farming lifestyle,” he said. “I liked everything that came with it — the outdoor work and camaraderie of the neighbors.”

It’s a family farm

Elaine Bleam’s son, Clay Bleam, doesn’t farm the land his great-great-grandfather homesteaded 150 years ago, but credits David Bleam for paving the way for his and his family’s farming operation today.

“It wouldn’t be what it is today if he wouldn’t have started it,” said Clay Bleam. “Him homesteading in 1868 led to the Bleam family farm.”

John Walstrom feels the farm belongs to everyone in the family, even though the Heritage Farm is in his mother’s name and he doesn’t farm with his cousins.

“It’s in all of our name,” he said. “I feel it is no more a part of me than it is to them.”

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