North Dakota's oldest family farm to celebrate 150 years

In Mayville, North Dakota, they're preparing for a celebration that's been 150 years in the making.

The Evenson family farm was established by Erick and Kari Evenson near Mayville, North Dakota in 1872.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News

MAYVILLE, N.D. — In mid-June, descendants of Erick and Kari Evenson will gather on North Dakota's oldest family-run farm.

Erick and Kari Evenson
Contributed / Nelson family

It was a challenging start for those immigrants when they came to the area from Scandinavia in 1872. 

A soybean field on the farm has been planted every spring for 150 years. When the Evensons came from Norway, the family lived in hole dug into a hill.

"The first winter, maybe two winters, (they lived in) the dugout down there," Lavon Nelson, a great-grandson, said.

Oak from a nearby tree was used to build a log cabin. Some of the original lumber still remains in the farmhouse, where a great-great-granddaughter lives today.


"I grew up just down the road from here, and this is my home away from home," said Annette Struck, a great-great-granddaughter of Erick and Kari Evenson. "Grandma and grandpa lived here. I'd just hop and skip down here everyday and visit them. I never in a million years as a child would have dreamt that this would be a place I would raise my whole family someday. I am so grateful."

In a couple weeks, many of the 340 direct descendants of that couple will gather in Mayville.

What a celebration. A farm, a family. A 150-year relationship on the state's oldest farm. It survived the Great Depression and the farm crisis of the 1980s.

"It's a real foundational place that I claim," Struck said.

On this historic farm sits an old oak. At 150 inches around, it is the biggest in North Dakota, and it is estimated to be about 450 years old.

The original plow used in 1872 to break ground by the Norwegian immigrant who started this all was found buried near the Goose River.

"When you think about it, a team of oxen, neither one wanted to take one more step having to pull a stupid plow," Nelson said.

At the celebration the weekend of June 25, the family will take the original plow and re-enact the first dig from 150 years ago.


All these descendants, connected to that daring couple that boarded a ship in Norway, unsure what life awaited them. And 150 years later, their fields are farmed with the same hope and dedication.

"Three hundred forty-some people can trace their direct bloodline back to this place," Nelson said.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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