Generations continue to be a part of family farm

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Mike Lenhart and Pat Lenhart are the current owners of their family’s Century Farm that started in 1911.

STORM LAKE — The Lenhart family’s farm continues to add more generations to occupy the land, 108 years after it was purchased.

It all started on March 2, 1911 when Frank and Sarah Lenhart purchased 160 acres near Storm Lake.

The current owners of the farm, Pat Lenhart and his brother Mike Lenhart, grandsons to Frank and Sarah Lenhart, said their grandfather came to Buena Vista County with his brothers from Illinois. A descendent of Irish immigrants, Sarah met Frank and they were married in 1879.

Next to take over the family farming operation were the Lenhart’s parents, James and Luella Lenhart, and their uncle Don Lenhart. This happened sometime in the 1950s and together, the brothers ran a dairy in addition to raising crops.

Don and James split the operation, turning the 160 acres into two separate 80 acre parcels.

At that time, Don started raising hogs while James kept up the dairy.

Mike and Pat Lenhart said their father continued to run the dairy until he suffered a heart attack and decided to switch his interest into selling crop insurance. At that time, crop insurance was new and he was instrumental in introducing it to producers and landowners in the area.

Selling Pioneer seed was another source of income for James, a business he grew from a one-car garage in the barn.

“It kept growing and he used the bottom part of the dairy barn for storage and we ended up in the haymow,” Pat Lenhart said. “We stored bag corn up there. He built up quite a dealership for Pioneer from the ground up.”

James Lenhart passed away when he was 60 years old, and his sons stepped up to take over their family farm — while both were still attending college.

“We each took a year off of college and run the farm while the other one finished up,” said Mike Lenhart. “We never thought about renting out or anything like that. It worked.”

“We both had a strong desire to want to farm,” his brother added. “That’s what we were studying in school — agriculture.”

Their mother was still on the farm and did what she could to help her sons start farming.

“She helped us get started farming and into the hog business,” said Pat Lenhart.

In addition to farming their family’s farm and raising hogs, the Lenhart brothers found an opportunity in the newspaper during the mid-1980s to raise turkeys; a venture they have been doing ever since.

At that time, the brothers were able to purchase their uncle Don Lenhart’s 80 acres.

“Our uncle wanted us to make sure we got it,” said Pat Lenhart, adding that a family agreement made it possible for them to buy the land and essentially put their family farm back together.

There is another branch on the Lenhart family tree that is also a part of the family farm.

“My dad and Don’s older brother, Leo, died in his 40s and my dad and uncle spent a lot of time with their two kids Bob and Tom,” said Pat Lenhart. “Bob bought 15 acres on the north end of Don’s 80 in 1968 and built a house there and raised a family with his wife Fran. This year, Bob and Fran moved to town and sold their acreage to their grandson, Nathan and his soon-to-be wife Eli. So now we have another generation of Lenharts living on the original homestead.”