Isanti County honors ‘Farm Family of the Year’

The Bondeson family’s roots run deep in Stanchfield Township, reaching back to when John and Johanna Julien emigrated from Sweden and purchased the land for their farm in 1872.

Their great-grandson Dean Bondeson – whose parents, Oke and Eleanor, purchased the present farm in 1946 – is proud to be the fourth generation to own and farm the land. Recently, his efforts and family history were recognized in the greater community.

The Isanti County Board recognized Dean and Jennifer Bondeson, of Stanchfield Township, as this year’s Farm Family of the Year on June 18. The couple received the honor from Ken Schroepfer and Amanda Swensen, of Isanti County Extension. Photo by Jon Tatting

The Isanti County Board recognized Dean and Jennifer Bondeson, of Stanchfield Township, as this year’s Farm Family of the Year on June 18. The couple received the honor from Ken Schroepfer and Amanda Swensen, of Isanti County Extension. Photo by Jon Tatting

The Isanti County Board congratulated Dean and his wife, Jennifer Bondeson, as this year’s Farm Family of the Year at the June 18 board meeting. Presenting the award were Ken Schroepfer and Amanda Swensen of the Isanti County Extension.

“Thank you for continuing the tradition of agriculture in our county,” said Board Chair Mike Warring.

Dean Bondeson, his sister Lois and her husband, Tom Hesselroth, talked about the history of the farm with The Isanti County News. Lois is known as the family historian, and her research of the Stanchfield operation dates back to the 19th century.

The dairy farm, which was originally carved out of a forested landscape, was the livelihood for the first generation Juliens until they retired in 1909. John Julien, known as a progressive farmer of the time, served as township supervisor, board member of School District 22 in Elmwood and was a charter member of Mission Covenant Church.

Staying in Stanchfield Township was Dean Bondeson’s grandfather, Emil Julien, who expanded the farming operation. In addition to dairy, he had 300 acres of potatoes and rented land in Tomah, Wisconsin, for more potatoes. Like his father, he, too, was known for his farming in the territory and also into central Wisconsin. He owned and operated several potato warehouses in Braham and Isanti, as well.

Representing the next generation, Dean’s parents, Oke and Eleanor (Julien) Bondeson, purchased their farm in 1946. It bordered Emil Julien’s farm to the west and John Julien’s farm to the south. Oke ran the 140-acre dairy farm until his death in 1977, when son Dean, a senior in high school, took it over.

Dean Bondeson was one of 86 students to graduate from Braham Area High School in 1978. He went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota at Crookston, but he came back home and rented additional land and a larger barn while expanding the dairy operation. He sold the dairy and transitioned to crop farming in 1985. He added land through purchase and rental agreements and has 1,000 acres under till today.

Bondeson grows primarily corn and soybeans and some hay; occasionally he has planted oats, wheat or rye for variety.  He takes advantage of today’s technology, for instance, using GPS for planting, fertilizing, and spraying. He does not cultivate the crops (no-till practices) rather, he uses the latest ideas to help control weeds and insects.

“You have to know the marketing, mechanics and technical side (of farming); it’s a multidisciplinary vocation, occupation,” Lois said.

The Bondeson family farm in Stanchfield Township in the 1950s. submitted photo

The Bondeson family farm in Stanchfield Township in the 1950s.
submitted photo

Added Dean, who pays close attention to the market, “You can have a good crop, but you still need a good price.”

Dean has been active in the community, too, which is another family tradition dating back to his great-grandparents. In previous years, he has served on the Braham Farmers Co-op Board and the Stanchfield Township Board of Supervisors. Dean is a past member of the Braham Jaycee’s and a current member of the Grandy Lions. Dean has been active on the Braham Volunteer Fire Department for 19 years and is presently assistant fire chief. In the past, he drove school bus for 15 years and currently he owns a small interstate trucking company which he operates on the side.

“Dean is not one to say no to someone,” Lois said with a smile.

The farm especially meant a lot to Eleanor, who loved everything about it. She moved in with daughter Lois in St. Michael, Minnesota, in 2008. Active in the Braham community, she was known for driving a little 1938 John Deere tractor to rake hay, and she was Dean’s “parts runner,” who would travel to North Branch, Princeton, Peace and other area communities for needed parts and supplies. She recently passed away at age 94.

Dean’s sister Diane Bondeson, of Anchorage, Alaska, jointly owns farm land purchased by her brother many years ago, and Lois heads the accounting and tax work for the farm. The sisters enjoy coming back home, as the farm provides an emotional connection to their family and heritage.

In 2002, Dean married Jennifer Brown, whose grandfather, Harold Person, also was a dairy farmer in Stanchfield Township.

Oke and Eleanor Bondeson

Oke and Eleanor Bondeson

She keeps busy with the household and as a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Cambridge Medical Center.

On receiving the Farm Family of the Year honor, Dean said, “It’s a nice recognition.”

Added Lois: “He’s very modest. He deserves it. Farming is not an easy thing to stick with. Dean has had a lot of bad years but a lot of good years.”

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