A few weeks ago we celebrated my great-great aunt Iris and her 110th birthday. She is North Dakota’s oldest resident. Her story is remarkable. She’s a farm girl, a 1928 University of North Dakota graduate and a 1946 University of Minnesota graduate. I wrote my weekly Agweek column for this upcoming week about Iris and you can read it by September 19 morning here.
Five generations of our family gathered to celebrate Iris. Everyone left with sweet corn to enjoy.
I think her parents would be impressed with the progress in agriculture that has sustained the land. I would love for them to see and taste the biotech sweet corn that reduces pesticides, bugs, passes of the tractors on the field and saves fuel. It’s a story of family farming I am proud to know and live. My mom told me this week Iris is still talking about how happy the sweet corn from her land made her and to be able to share it at her birthday party.
My mom and I were both a part of Monsanto’s sweet corn program this year. The sweet corn seed was provided to us and using it at a grand 110th birthday party was a perfect connection from the old to the new of agriculture. With Iris, my grandma, my mom, my sister, me and then our daughters we represent five generations of North Dakota farm girls. Add in my Aunt Holly and learning farming sister-in-law, Jenn and we have quite the crew of women to celebrate!
My grandma Nola and her sister Connie are farm girls together and also still own family farmland. They are beautiful and always seem to dress alike, which started with their mother, Esther dressing them similarly when they were young girls. Iris is an aunt to them, the sister to their father, Odin.
Some of our favorite family men sang together. My teacher and farmer brother Robbie sang a solo. I missed getting his picture! A quartet of cousin Don, neighbor Bill, Uncle Jim and cousin Scott sang to celebrate Iris at her party. Don and Bill work with my parents on the farm. Jim ranches and manages the cattle. Scott is farm boy, turned an advertising executive and today a farmer. These people all make me proud of the family farms across generations we have around us.My mom texted Hunter enough ahead of the party that he even agreed to sit down at the piano to play at the party. He was a bit rusty but Iris didn’t mind. She is excited Hunter is going “to the University” as she says starting next fall, the same university she started at in 1923!
I snapped a picture of two of my favorite guys. My husband, Nathan and cousin Scott. Scott was the first to tell me I would marry Nathan ten years ago. At the time, he and I worked together and spent a lot of time together. I call him my brother/cousin/friend. He was right about Nathan! Today Scott and his wife Elizabeth and their son, Herlof live and farm nearby my parents and Scott’s parents. I love family connections that we share.
Family matters to us. As we gathered, I “directed” pictures. It was more like demanded pictures, knowing 110th birthday parties across five generations of family don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. The captures are treasures.We have a next generation. Niece Nola is named after Grandma Nola. Iris and little Nola are 108 years a part in age. I can’t put into words the joy and sparkle a next generation of kids brings to the oldest generations but I definitely saw and felt it at Iris’s party.
What we do, where we go, it helps define us. But at the end of this earthly life, it’s the difference and impact we had on our family, friends and community that matters most to me. I am forever grateful to have Iris, her farm girl stories and roots, her example in education and her generous spirit that will live through next generations in our family. Iris makes me a better person for today and for the future.
Who is a person that has helped define you?