100 years of farming
Four generations in Caledonia
By John Faucher
The Wisconsin State Fair selected the Gruetzmacher family farm on County Trunk HH in Caledonia as a 2020 Century Farm and Home honoree.
The farm which has operated under continuous family ownership since July 1, 1920 now joins 9,613 Century Farms and Homes nestled throughout Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Century Farm and Home Program began in 1948 in conjunction with the State of Wisconsin’s Centennial Celebration.
In May of 1873, Charles Gruetzmacher immigrated to the US from Friedenfeld Germany. He came through New York then Oshkosh to the town of Caledonia.
Charles, who was age 15, stayed with family and friends in Readfield until he married and settled on a farm two miles north of Readfield in Caledonia.
He and his wife raised eight children.
His son Rufus then purchased the Magedanz farm one road over from his parent’s farm on July 1, 1920.
Rufus and Almeda milked 25 cows, maintained a hen house of 50 chickens, raised feeder pigs from birth to market and had two horses, Molly and King.
They raised nine children through the depression on the farm before turning it over to their son Dan and his wife Sue Gruetzmacher.
Dan purchased and took over running the farm in July 1966.
Dan and Sue’s farm focus was on raising pigs from furlough to finish. They started with eight breeding stock and increased to over 30, which produced over 600 fat hogs annually to be sold to local slaughter houses like Hillshire Farm.
They also raised approximately 30 beef steers annually while cash cropping corn and soybeans.
Dan also worked a full-time job in Neenah.
“I don’t know how we did it, but we did,” said Dan Gruetzmacher. “Things had to work like clockwork.”
Dan and Sue would wake up early each day to do chores. Dan would leave for work at 6:20 a.m. and return at 4 p.m.
Sue helped with chores and always had a breakfast made and lunch packed by 6 a.m. She would have supper made by 4 p.m. when Dan returned from work.
When the morning chores didn’t all get done before Dan had to leave for work, Sue would go out and finish them after he left for work.
Their daughter Lisa (Gruetzmacher) Niemann remembers her dad getting up “super early” to take a load of pigs to market at Hillshire Farm before leaving for work.
In the early years Dan’s dad Rufus would help with things like taking the corn to the feed mill and doing field work during the day when Dan was at work.
As Dan and Sue’s son Todd grew older he took on more responsibilities, chores and fieldwork.
Todd and his wife Amy Gruetzmacher built a home on one acre of the homestead in 1994 where they still live today. Todd continues farming and fieldwork.
In the summer of 2019 Todd and Amy’s son Jared and his wife Andrea Gruetzmacher built a home on 4.5 acres of the homestead.
Throughout the last 100 years family members can reflect on numerous family events held at the farm including summer picnics and large Christmas gatherings. Rufus and Almeda hosted two daughter’s wedding dinners at the farm.
Dan and Sue hosted two pig roasts for Todd and Lisa’s graduation parties on the farm.
Today the farm has grown from its original 119 acres to 136 acres in total.
It’s also been fully modernized from the original days when water had to be fetched from an outside cistern.
In more recent years, the farm became one of the area’s first fully self-sustained solar powered operations.
“For most of the year, we generate more power than we use,” said Dan Gruetzmacher.