University Relations
http://www.umn.edu/urelate
612-624-6868
University of Minnesota : Driven to Discover.


Gallery Home

Juhla! Celebrating 150 years of Finnish Immigration to Minnesota

Farming



Farmer broadcasting grain.

Farmer broadcasting grain.

Many Finnish immigrants farmed in Minnesota. The early Finnish immigrants had the opportunity to own homestead land which gave them great freedom, since the land they had farmed in Finland was not their own. This freedom of land ownership lent itself to the Finnish proverb “Oma Tupa, Oma Lupa” (One's home, One's way). According to Arnold Alanen in Finns in Minnesota, by 1920 Minnesota included 4,700 Finnish farms - the highest number in the nation and 755 more than in Michigan.

Much of the land available to the Finnish farmer in northeastern Minnesota was “cutover” land, meaning that loggers had been through the land first and chopped down the best trees for building supplies. Left behind were stumps of the trees and rocks in the ground that farmers had to clear to make the land arable. Unsuitable for cash crops like grain or corn, the land was used for hay for livestock or garden crops to feed family and neighbors. Finnish farmers in central and southern Minnesota turned to livestock or dairy farming, which flourished because the railroad provided transportation of goods like butter and milk to be sold in surrounding communities.

Henry Juntunen feeds calves at the Meadowbrook Dairy in Esko.

Henry Juntunen feeds calves at the Meadowbrook Dairy in Esko, 1915.

Finnish American farms in Minnesota were unique because they had log buildings carved with dovetail notches. Every farm had a savusauna (smoke sauna); many had buildings on their land that served specific purposes, like a summer kitchen, horse stable, wood shed, and a lato (a barn used for hay storage located out in the field).