Mazeppa Farmers Organized Creamery to Boost Skidding Dairy Prices in 1919
Submitted by the Mazeppa Historical Society
MAZEPPA FARMERS COOPERATIVE DAIRY ASSOCIATION Mazeppa, Minnesota
Organized to provide farmers in the Mazeppa area with a satisfactory outlet for their milk, the Mazeppa Farmers Cooperative Dairy Association dates back to Dec. 15, 1919.
Dairy farmers were having tough sledding at that time. War-inflated prices and land values had been punctured. Wholesale but- ter prices had hit the 76-cent mark earlier but by the last of 1919 it was becoming apparent prices would get worse before they would start improving.
The Minnesota Legislature had estab- lished a state department of agriculture ear- lier in 1919. The law creating the depart- ment contained a mandate to the commis- sioner of agriculture to promote coopera- tion. It was figured this would be a means of finding a solution to the economic prob- lems facing farmers in the period following World War 1.
Mazeppa farmers could see the handwrit- ing on the wall. It spelled out this message: "Organize your own coop or face trouble"
Prices were enough of a problem but another worry - imported butter - was nag- ging dairymen that fateful year. Much of thi was high quality Danish butter and it put a further sag in the price structure. Butter substitutes were making headway in the battle for the housewife's dollar, too.
It was against this backdrop of troubled times that the Mazeppa farmers discussed the proposal to organize a creamery and cheese factory of their own. A small receiv- ing station owned by E.G. Hammer of Zumbrota already was in existence in Mazeppa. Most of the discussion that day centered around a proposal to buy the Hammer station.
With a majority of the farmers present favorable toward a suggestion to buy the Hammer station, officers and directors were named that day. Tom Baker was elected pre ident, with Fred Busse, Jr., as secretary and Paul Krinke as treasurer. Other direc- tors were F H. Lohman, John Goodman, Earl Judd, Henry Windhorst, Fred Reitman, and Peter Hertzig, Jr. On Dec. 22, the direc- tors met to select a favorable site for a creamery. Finally, discussing simmered down to the point where it was decided to buyout Mr. Hammer and take over opera- tions on Jan. I, 1920.
Mr. Hammer met with the board of direc- tors on Dec. 30 and agreed to sell his plant for $3,508, the price included the building, land and machinery in addition to whatever supplies were on hand.
Matters were moving along briskly by now 2'.Dd on Jan. 17, 1921, the next meeting was held with a large number of sharehold- ers present. The bylaws and articles were read and adopted. John Thiele, who later was to serve many years as treasurer for the organization, purchased the buttermilk for the coming year at a price of $6.55 for every thousand pounds. Charles Funk was to be paid 5 cents for every cake of ice "deliver on our sled" and the request was made that "all shareholders haul their share of ice free of charge."
A.H. Biersdorf was hired as the manager . and on May 17, 1920, Percy Sheldon was added to the payroll as a helper at a salary of $100 monthly. Approval of a motion to drill a new well also was made at that time. A notation in the board's minutes for Dec. 22, 1920, stated that cream would be pur- chased on Mondays and Thursdays of each week if brought before 11 a.m. Sweet cream would receive 5 cents more than cream rated No.1. The first annual meeting was held Jan. 8, 1921, with Tom Baker being returned as president. Other directors were FH. Lohman, Albert Schraeder, John Goodman, Henry Windhorst, Fred Reitman, Paul Krinke, Nye Rich and John Thiele. Fred Busse continued to serve as secretary with John Goodman being elected vice presi- dent. The minutes show that a machine was pur- chased on May 7, 1921, with which to put up butter in pound prints. The secretary was instructed to go over to Louis Phillips' printing plant and have tickets made. These were to be taken to the bank and picked up by patrons while wishing to exchange them for butter. At a meeting held Feb. 18, 1922, Henry Windhorst was elected president, John Goodman. iDe 'dent, and Carl Budensiek', secretary. Other directors were Nye Rich, Eugene Tri, Ed Loken, Will Gruhlke, Matt Marx and Carl Betcher. Mr. Goodman was instructed to handle sales of feed, flour and coal on cream days. By 1933, the volume of milk had climbed to the point where carloads of butter were being shipped out. By the fall of 1924, the directors began looking for a new buttermaker and manag- er. Tom Baker was asked to come to the creamery to grade cream "to satisfy the patrons," as the secretary worded it. Each board member was receiving $8 a year for his services, with the secretary receiving $15 monthly. At a meeting held Feb. 21, 1925, the direc- tors balloted on the selection of a manager. Guy Jadwin was named manager after receiving five votes to Biersdorf's four. The latter later accepted a position as man- ager of Zumbro Falls Creamery. That same year the directors began to dis- cuss plans for a new creamery but no action was to be taken for several years. On July 31, 1926, the directors voted to buy the lot on which the present creamery is located, a livery barn having been on that site for many years. That same year Joe Larson was named board chairman and John Tiedeman was elected director. John Rolland was elected president at the meeting in February, 1927, and Fred Busse's salary as secretary was set at $25 monthly. The treasurer, John Thiele, was to be paid $50 annually. Fred Brossback was elected to the board and George Grossback was hired as a helper at $70 monthly.
Casper Dahle of West Concord was hired as manager March 1, 1932, replacing Guy Jadwin. His helper was to be Lee LeVan, who now is operating a lumber yard at Douglas. W.F Judd became secretary that year. The volume of work was increasing steadily at that time and so a second helper Eldred Kuehn of Mazeppa, was hired salary of $30 monthly. On July 28, 1934 fire broke out in creamery and destroyed the ice house' addition to to causing substantial damage to the roof of the building. Meeting Aug. 1934, with the insurance adjuster, the directors decided the sum of $1,565 was a fair price for the damage suffered, exclusive damage of the butter. John Thiele Was named that day to supervise the job repairing the creamery roof. The fire spurred the directors into making plans for a new creamery. A committee assigned to inspect six creameries and t ones at Saratoga and Utica turned over the blueprints for possible use by the Mazeppa board. Charles Grover, Zumbrota architect was asked to appear before the board a present his plans for a new building on A 25,1934.
A final figure on the fire damage was at $1,616.72. Eugene Hoffman was elected to the board at a meeting held Feb. 16, 1935. William Gruhlke was elected secretary and a ing was called to finance construction the building. Albert Krinke, the board chairman, was appointed to contact Zumbrota lawyer on getting bonds printed John Thiele was asked to see a neighboring land owner about buying extra land next to the present creamery.
Meeting April 20, 1935, the board accepted C.L. Grover's plans for the building. Art Fisher was the low bidder on tile an Bernard Darcy got the contract for the gravel.
The board voted to increase its indebtedness from $7,000 to $12,000. The 0 warehouse was sold for $100 and the original creamery building went to Bern Darcy, who still uses it for machinery storage.
A short-lived attempt to get into the cheese manufacturing end began Oct. 23, 1941, when the board approved the pur- chase of special equipment. Russell Rossi was hired as cheese maker and cheese was made for several months. Later it was voted to discontinue manufacturing of cheese. On Feb. 14, 1942, Casper Dahle resigned as manager and Eldred Kuehn began 15 years as manager of the Mazeppa plant. He resigned in 1957 and was succeeded by Hans P. Larsen, who became manager Oct. 15, 1957. A native of Benson Minn., Mr. Larsen was reared on a dairy farm operated by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hans Larsen, Sr. The Larsens had a milk operating operation on their farm and in 1920 began delivering milk to Benson homes. The youngster was kept busy delivering milk while attending school but in 1937 when expensive pasteur- izing equipment became necessary if the dairy was to stay in business, his father sold out to the Benson Co-operative Creamery. Young Larsen went to work for the Benson plant Oct. 16, 1937, delivering milk until Feb. 14, 1940, when the National Guard unit to which he belonged was absorbed into the regular U.S. Army. It was the start of five years of Army service for Mr. Larsen, who spent three years overseas with an anti-aircraft battery. Fourteen months were spent in Iceland, and then the battery was sent to Scotland.
After intensive training, the unit landed in France five days after D-Day and fought the victorious allies as they pushed steadily into France and Germany. After being discharged in 1945, Mr. Larsen returned to Benson and resumed
employment at the creamery. He was employed as a milk and cream hauler and then later went to work inside the creamery where he received a variety of experience. On Nov. 1, 1949, he took his first job as manager of a creamery when he accepted a position at Kerkhoven, Minn. Later, after
five years at Kerkhoven, he accepted employment at Madison and Winnebago, Minn., and on Oct. 15, 1957, came to Mazeppa and took over management of the Mazeppa plant. Mr. Larsen is married to the' former Mildred Foley of St. Joseph, Mo., the mar- riage taking place Aug. 31, 1946. They are the parents of four children: David, 13; Marie, 11; Debby, 7; and Dean, 2. They are members of the Mazeppa Methodist Church. Mr. Larsen is a member of the American Legion. Present board members are Donald Gruhlke, president; Laverne Windhorst, vice president; Allwin Arndt, secretary- treasurer. The directors are Willous Heitman, Donald Lemmerman, Haven Judd and Gaylord Betcher. Betty Ann Schafer is the bookkeeper. Mr. Judd succeeded Melvin Kish, who had resigned. He is the son of an early board member. The firm's income and expense statement shows a total income of $696,466.02 in 1961, with patrons being paid a total of $490,668.49 for premium milk, $64,758.52 for No.1 milk, and $49,151.07 for No.2 milk. A total of 19,330,443 pounds of milk were produced in that period with the value of butter shipped being $483,047.02. In addition, butter was sold locally amounting to $15,326.19, and patrons purchased $11 ,594.48 of butter.
Sale of skimmilk is a major item.
Skimmilk sold to an Owatonna firm bring- ing $170,165.23. Buttermilk sales totaled $5,790.48, whole milk sales and milk han- dling income $807.23. Other income, including sales of ice cream, cheese and feed, were $7,936.34. Total current assets are figured at $164,995.82. ' The Mazeppa Farmers' Co-operative Dairy Association ranks as one of the more successful creameries in Minnesota. It is proud of the numerous prizes its high qual- ity butter has achieved in state-wide compe- tition during recent years.