Mac Tobkin: A founding farmer of Perham, Minn.
PERHAM, Minn. — Mac Tobkin is known as “Mr. Community” at Perham Living – and with his extensive history in the area, it isn’t hard to understand why.
Mac was born on July 30, 1926 to Anna and Henry Tobkin on their Gorman Township farmstead. He was the youngest of 10 children.
When asked if he and his siblings ever got into any mischief on the farm, Mac laughed and said, “No, we never got in any trouble.”
“I farmed all of my life and I was a businessman,” he said, summing up his life’s work in a few short words.
When asked what he thought had changed the most in his lifetime, Mac immediately replied, “farming.”
On his own family’s farm, Mac remembered the draft horses that used to pull the implements: Amos, Andy, Buster and Bill.
“Those were the days,” he said. “In the winter time, we still had to haul manure and everything with the horses.”
Around 1929, Mac’s father bought their only tractor, a Farmall.
“That’s what I had until I changed the tractors after we got married,” Mac said. “It started out with metal wheels, and then we put rubber on it.”
He continued to farm on the homestead, located about five miles north of Perham, throughout the years. He farmed corn, edible beans and some dairy.
On June 16, 1947, Mac married Dorothy Grismer, his high school sweetheart. They had 11 children together: Ron, Paul, Mark, Joan, Linda, Virginia, Neil, Connie, Ricky, Mary and Sharon. He now has 34 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.
Mac was also a district supervisor for a crop seed company, where he supervised 31 other dealers. It was during this time, in the late 1950s, that he started Mac’s Farm Service, which provided farmers with fertilizer, chemicals and custom spraying.
He said that, by this time, some of the boys were old enough to pitch in on the farm and keep everything going smoothly on both sides.
In the 1970s, Mac partnered with Tuffy and Ken Nelson to create Perco Farm and Home Supply. Eventually, Mac bought out the Nelsons’ shares of the business and continued as Perco Farm Service, until it was sold to Crop Production Services.
Mac then married Ruby Dewar in 1985. They did not have any children together, but Ruby had three children, two sons and a daughter, from a previous marriage.
“We never got too far away,” Mac chuckled. He and Ruby live next to each other in Perham Living.
Mac retired from actively farming shortly after marrying Ruby, but he partnered with his son, Ron, to found Prairie Bean Company in the early 1980s. Mac, with three sons (Ron, Rick and Neil) and two other partners, also created Little Pine Dairy, a 1,600 cow dairy, in 1995. The farm was sold in 2004.
“Do I think I would have changed anything?,” Mac pondered, thinking about his experiences. “No. I don’t think I would have.”
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a twice-monthly series in the Perham Focus spotlighting Perham seniors.