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June 2010

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Meisner farm celebrates anniversary with open house

Gail Meisner and Shirley Lorenz are hosting an open house on Father's Day, June 20, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Meisner family farm near Wellington.

The farm is located at 10565 N. County Road 9 north of Wellington. Family, friends and neighbors are invited to attend the event from 1 to 4 p.m. Special guest will be state Sen. Kevin Lundberg.

Fred Jr. and Esther Meisner, both deceased, were married in 1936 in Greeley and farmed in Gill, Goodrich, Brush and Kersey before moving to Wellington in 1960.

"I want to honor my hardworking parents for their contribution to this community," said Gail Meisner.

Fred Meisner's parents came to America from Russia in 1912. He was born in 1914.

Esther Meisner's parents came to America from Russia in 1900 and 1901. She was born in 1917.

Both family lines are descended from the Volga Germans from Russia. In 1763, Catherine II recruited Germans to farm the very fertile Volga River area in Russia. The Germans were given many promises, which were not kept. Though living in Russia, the Germans kept their traditions over the decades.

Esther met Fred when they were neighbors at Barnesville. They were married in 1936 in the Lutheran Church in Greeley in a traditional German wedding celebration.

The couple took up farming and had three children, Shirley, Gene and Gail. Esther worked in the fields with Fred, both driving teams of draft horses and later converting to tractors. Esther milked over 20 cows by hand twice a day. Selling the dairy enabled them to afford the down payment to buy the farm in Wellington in 1960 from C.C. Rogers.

Fred drove all of the farm equipment the 52-mile trip from Kersey to the Wellington farm in the cold of winter. Gail remembers the day they moved. Esther picked her up from first grade at noon. The car had clothes stacked in the back seat, with the parakeet's cage on top. Many of the sisters and brothers brought their farm trucks to help with the move. According to Gail, it looked like a circus moving the horses, cows, pigs, chickens, cats, dogs, tools and remaining equipment.

Gail also recalls the family going to the Y Knot Café (now the T-Bar Inn) for dinner that night. It was the first time she had ever seen a bar. Esther had been told that Wellington was a tough town in which to raise a teenage son. Fort Collins and Cheyenne were dry, and Wellington was wall-to-wall liquor stores.

Esther didn't know how she would survive without the milk check from the dairy, but she continued to milk several cows and raised hogs, chickens, ducks and geese for butchering, eggs and milk. She traded eggs, milk and cream for groceries at the Wallen grocery store in Wellington.

Esther also worked the fields, hoeing crops, cultivating, driving trucks in harvest, plus keeping an immaculate house and caring for her children. She raised a huge garden and held Sunday dinners for family and friends after church services at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Fort Collins.

Fred was very ambitious and erected the Quonset in 1960 to store his equipment. It's still there today. He was a skilled carpenter, a trade he learned from his father. He built toys, including rocking horses and the miniature farm that will be displayed at the anniversary party. He also built several portable buildings made from redwood. Two are still on the farm today. One was originally a chicken house, the other a hog shed.

Fred raised alfalfa, corn, sugar beets, pinto beans and Coors barley. In addition to the 160-acre family farm, he worked a number of the neighborhood farms over the years. He also was a master at designing and repairing farm equipment.

Fred had a heart attack in 1971 and remained in ill health until his death on June 13, 1977, at age 63. In September that year, the farmers in the Wellington community came to harvest the corn crop.

Gail recalled the following about that harvest: Local farm equipment companies donated equipment. Men brought their own trucks. The co-op donated the fuel. Mercy Farm furnished the food. The women in the family served the workers. The Coloradoan covered the event, calling it "An Adventure in Community Friendship." It was truly amazing. The sugar beets that year were the best for the Dixon beet dump, and Esther received the high 10 award for 1977. It would have made Fred very proud.

The Fred Meisner Estate Sale was held on Jan. 28, 1978, in snow and subzero temperatures. All of the tools and equipment were sold. It was a very sad and gloomy day for the Meisner family, Gail said.

Gene took over farm operations, and Esther remained on the farm until 1983.

Esther died on April 17, 2006, the day before her 90th birthday. Shirley bought Gene's shares of the family partnership, and the two sisters have continued with the Esther Meisner LLLP in honor of their mother.

Presently, Dale Sipes leases the farmland, and Gail lives on the farm as the farm manager and bookkeeper. She shows horses, barrel races and conducts information clinics. Shirley lives on the Lorenz Farm in Greeley and spends the summers on the Lorenz Ranch west of Cheyenne. Both sisters continue to share their love of the land and their horses.

Gail Meisner researched her family's history for this article.

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