Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Local farm recognized as Century Farm


Lois Johnson

Aaron and Tom Zuk are pictured in front of an older barn on the family farm, which has been recognized as a Minnesota Century Farm.

Tom Zuk recalled the days when he had three pickup loads of exhibits to take to the fair.

This year the farm near Kettle River that he once owned was recognized as a Century Farm at the Carlton County Fair. His son, Aaron, now owns the farm and is the fourth generation on the farm.

Tom's grandparents, Walter and Josephine Wojtysiak, homesteaded the farm in 1914.

"They bought the farm from some people by the name of Dodge," said Tom in a recent interview. "Grandpa was a Polish immigrant so Grandma signed for it. She had been born in this country. She was a Milczark. My son, Logan, now owns the Milczark farm."

Tom's grandparents farmed until 1963.

"I came here a lot when my grandparents were here," said Tom. "My grandpa liked to pick all kinds of things, like asparagus, wild berries and agates. I loved to go with him."

Tim's grandparents had seven children: Joseph, Walter, Ignatz, Rose, Martha, Tony and Louie.

Tom's mother was Martha, and she married Louie Zuk. They lived on a farm just west of Moose Lake where Tom grew up. After his grandparents sold the farm to their son, Tony, and his wife, Helen, Tom's grandparents moved to Moose Lake.

"I spent a lot of time with my grandparents because they lived so close," said Tom.

Tony and Helen Wojtysiak farmed until Tony became ill and died. Helen stayed on the farm until she sold it to Tom and Linda in 1984.

"Linda and I had lived in Idaho," Tom explained. "And then we started a farm in Sebeka, Minnesota. After Tony passed away, Helen asked if we wanted to buy the farm.

"That was perfect for us. We would be close to our parents. Linda's parents were Virginia and George Nikko from Willow River."

Once the Zuk family bought and moved to the farm, they invested in a new barn with a free stall system.

"We went from the 35 cows that they used to milk to 120 cows," said Tom.

The family's hard work paid off.

"I'm pretty proud of the fact that we were named the Farm Family of the Year 1996," said Tom.

That family included six children: Lindsey, twins Zebulon and Zachary, Logan, Aaron and Tyler. Lindsey and Zebulon are married and live in the Metro area, and Zebulon and his wife have two children. The others live close by, with Aaron and Tyler living on the 260-acre farm. Tom and Aaron own another 60 acres in partnership.

Tom told stories about the days when the farm was thriving and the kids were actively involved.

"My grandparents always took sheep and goats to the fair to exhibit," he said. "I was talking to Carl Anderson, who was in charge of the barn one time, and he suggested that we bring in some exhibits. I looked at the grains and hay that someone had exhibited and knew that ours was better than that.

"We learned how to make the bundles and mark them for exhibits, and we won blue ribbons. There was a lot of competition in those days. One year Aaron was the Premier Exhibitor. It was fun.

"By the time the kids were 7 or 8 years old, they knew the names of all the grasses."

Life for the family took a turn for the worse when Linda was diagnosed with leukemia.

"She was doing well and was in remission from the leukemia when she died from complications in 2009," said Tom.

The family carried on, and Tom worked for Federated Co-ops in Kettle River.

However, after he was laid off, he found work on the oil field in North Dakota, and he sold the farm to Aaron in 2012.

Tom remarried almost two years ago to Kim Trage from the local area, and the couple now lives in a new home in Dodge, North Dakota. Kim works at a bank, said Tom.

Aaron has 30 cow/calf pairs on the farm and he works in construction.

"I wish that we were still dairy farming," said Aaron. "I plan to build up the farm with more equipment and more cattle. I want to build it up so it will last quite a few years."


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