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Regent farm celebrates 100 years

Press Photo by Mike Hricik From left, pictured on Tuesday, Viola Nester of New England, Larry Stang of Dickinson, Jon Stang of Regent and his son, Carter Stang, represent four generations of five that have farmed on Stang Farms in Regent.

REGENT — In 100 years, many things have changed in rural Regent.

Horses pulling plows to sow fields have been replaced by sophisticated, motorized farm equipment equipped with hydraulics and global positioning systems. There are also far fewer farm families in the area than there were a century ago.

“Nobody comes back to the farms any more,” said Jon Stang, owner of Regent’s Stang Farms, who bemoaned the lack of neighbors surrounding his large tract of land.

The Stang family is one fixture that has remained the same in the area, even when others left for cities.

On Wednesday, about 50 far-flung family members joined the Stangs on their farm to officially celebrate 100 years of farming near Regent and New England.

Today, Jon Stang farms sits on approximately 18,000 acres of land and employs four full-time workers. It is one of the largest southwest North Dakota.

During harvest time, the farm can run as many as six combines at once with the help of temporary workers, said Jon’s wife, Robin.

It’s a far cry from the 160 acres that Stang’s great-grandfather, Frank, bought on June 5, 1914.

Frank Stang was the son of German immigrants. Prior to 1914, he farmed in Danube, Minn.

But according to family records, he wanted to farm with his brother, who owned a 160-acre plot of land sold by the federal government as part of the Homestead Act.

Frank Stang arrived in North Dakota by train with his wife and three children in tow. He purchased a farmstead close to his brother from Olef Olson for $1, said Jon’s father, Larry Stang.

The only remaining daughter of Frank and Lydia is 92-year-old Viola Nester of New England. She still recalls her time on the farm. Her family milked cows and planted crops that would see them through hard times, like the Great Depression, she said.

“Back in the ’30s, we didn’t know we were poor. Nobody knew,” Nester said. “Because we had a farm, there was always food on the table.”

She remembers all of her five siblings pitching in to weed by hand, helping the farm to slowly expand.

In 1936, Frank’s son, Leonard, took over the farm, starting a tradition of sons filling in for their fathers. Leonard and Lorraine Stang had five children together, three sons and two daughters.

Larry said he fondly remembers selling cows with his siblings, which inspired him to later take the reigns of the farm.

He and his brother Leon began co-managing the farm in 1959, ushering in an era of its greatest growth. Larry married his wife, Ruth, in 1963. They would go on to have three children, including Jon.

When Leon died in a car accident in 1967, Larry was left to reluctantly go forward on his own.

Larry said he is most proud of moving to no-till farming in the mid-1980s, ensuring that the farm’s resources will still exist in the decades to come.

“If not for that, (the farm) would have blown away,” he said.

In 1988, Jon took over farm management duties from Larry, who moved to Dickinson and has just recently begun to ease up on work.

It hasn’t always been easy, Jon said. For instance, he would rather you not ask about a combine that burnt up at the beginning of harvest a few years back.

But Jon said he continues to enjoy making food for people.

Robin Stang said she treasures time with her family, and hopes they are honoring long-held traditions.

“We keep creating memories,” she said.

Jon Stang has directed the farm differently than his father, phasing out animal production and focusing the farm’s efforts today on canola, corn and durum wheat. In the future, Jon said he thinks one of his four children will probably be interested in taking over for him.

“We’ll see,” he said with a smile before heading out to spray fields.