Area century farm a labor of love
Published 9:00 am Sunday, March 15, 2020
Alton Krikava, a lifetime resident of the Albert Lea area, has spent his life dedicated to the farmstead he was born on. From watching and helping his father as a young boy to raising his own family of five children with his wife, Marie, Krikava has seen a lot on the now-registered century farm.
Krikava’s grandfather, Josef Krikava, immigrated to the United States from what is now the Czech Republic in search of a better life for his family. He settled in Minnesota, where he bought three parcels of land in 1877.
Alton Krikava said he’s grateful his grandfather decided to come to America because he was not sure how many of his relatives would have survived had they stayed there.
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It was a rough go at the farm through the beginning years. The Krikavas were forced to give up two of their parcels early on, but luckily, Josef Krikava put one of the parcels in his wife, Mary’s name, allowing them to keep the property.
After living in a sod house for many years, Josef Krikava built a house in 1905 where it stood until a new home was built in 1968.
Alton Kirklava was born on the farm in 1928 and graduated from high school in 1946. He helped with work on the farm his whole life, but officially took ownership of the 160 acres from his father in 1949 for $12,000.
Farming life continued on, and in 1950, Alton Krikava said he “hit the jackpot,” but it had nothing to do with farming.
“I married a terrific wife,” he said. “She was a real sweetheart. She lived in Albert Lea where her dad owned a shoe repair shop. She wasn’t a farm girl, but we survived.”
He and his wife, Marie, lived on the property and ran the day-to-day business of the farm. He said he once had about 600 total acres of farmland. However, it wasn’t only crops; the Krikava farm was home to about 3,000 laying hens before the couple got out of the egg industry.
In all those years of farming, Alton Krikava said the biggest changes came when electricity became a common commodity in many households and the county put a ditch next to their land, making it more prosperous.
“There were two things that happened that were unbelievably good,” he said. “What people like the most was the electricity, and up until I was 18 years old we didn’t have electricity. Plus, the ditch went through by the county commissioners. We could tile into the ditch with clay pipes and we could produce more. Both came in the same year. (The year) 1946 was a banner year for us.”
Alton Krikava also raised his five children on the farm, all of whom have grown to become professionals in a variety of fields, he said.
Alton Krikava retired from actively farming the land in 1990, and the couple lived on the farm together for nearly 70 years, before Marie passed away after a battle with cancer in 2018.
Although he said it was not always easy, he had no complaints about his life on the farm.
“I’ve got to say that we’ve had a pretty good life,” he said. “I can’t complain about my life. Sure, I worked really hard, long hours and low pay, but I won’t complain about that either. Most of it was a labor of love.”
By the numbers
1877: Year Josef Krikava purchased land in Freeborn County for his farm
1928: Year Alton Krikava was born on the farm
$12,000: Price Alton Krikava paid in 1949 for the 160 acres of the farm