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A Look Back at the Iowa Lakes Farm

By Staff | Mar 23, 2020

To the Editor,

Here is a little known fact on the history of the Iowa Lakes Community College Farm that is five and one half miles west of Emmetsburg:

The owner or owners of that farm were Albert and Will Fife. I never knew Albert as he passed sometime before I could have gotten to know him. I did know Will. They came to Iowa from Montana but why I do not know. I also do not know when they came here, but it would have been in the early 1920s or maybe before.

The land on the south side of US HIghway 18 was also part of the farm. My dad, Henry L. Duhn, rented 80 acres from them sometime around 1925.

I remember Dad telling this story sometime in the 1940s as was told to him by Will Fife.

The brothers being from where they had grown much wheat and hearing of a new kind, or new to them, decided to order some and give it a try.

Sometime before harvest they went to the field to see how it was and how it looked. What they found was one stock taller, stronger, and a larger head than the rest of the field. Marking it with a stick and harvesting that one head of wheat separately, they put it in a small jar and stored it on the clock shelf, the next year planting it in the garden. Every year after that they planted a little more until they had enough seed to plant a large field. After that they started selling it as Fife Wheat. Dad said you could order it from any seed company, like Early May or Gurney, and many more. Dad also said that Will once made the statement, “We should have asked for a royalty from it.”

In the 1950s sometime, I asked my wife’s relatives, they from North Dakota, if they had ever heard of or planted Fife Wheat. They had and said there were thousands of acres planted.

I know this same type of thing has happened many times since the world began. This time it happened in Palo Alto County, five and one half miles west of Emmetsburg.

(signed) Marvin R. Duhn

Emmetsburg, IA