Hard Times in Hollandale

Today’s post comes from Jim Tjepkema

Hollandale is a small town in Southern Minnesota that came into being in the early part of the last century when a large wetland area was drained. The organic soil that was exposed when the land was drained was sold off as small vegetable farms. In it’s early days there was a very large number of small farms that produced a wide variety of vegetables. By the time I moved to the area in the early 80s, there were less than 30 vegetable farms and they were primarily devoted to growing potatoes with some of them also devoted to producing onions, carrots, and sweet corn. Most of the families that purchased the original small farms were of Dutch heritage and many of the ones I met when we moved there were descendants of those families.

Within any ethnic group you can often find people who are proud of their heritage. That is certainly true for many of the Hollandale area residents. I asked one of the older members of the community if he agreed with the saying: “if you aren’t Dutch, you aren’t much”. He told me that he might think that, although he never says it out loud. Both of my father’s parents were born in the Netherlands, so I know a little about the pride of the Dutch.


My first job in Minnesota was at a small agricultural research company located near Hollandale. When that job ended I started a crop consulting business and soon found out that there was a big need for a consultant who could help vegetable growers keep on top of production problems. Two of the best growers were willing to try my services and they made it clear that the other growers should also use my services. As a result, I spent 10 growing seasons checking Hollandale vegetable fields for diseases, pests, and other problems along with providing advice on dealing with what I found. Due to the high production costs for vegetables and large risk of losses due to production problems, I was able to show that my services were needed. Unfortunately, the farmers were not willing to add very much to their costs by paying me a high salary.

During the years I worked with the Hollandale growers the number of farms gradually decreased until there were only 5 of 6 left and now there are only 2 or 3. I’m sure some of them quit because the strain of operating a vegetable farm became too great, as they got older. There is a tremendous amount of work involved in planting, growing, harvesting, storing, packaging, and marketing vegetables. One grower, who also grew corn and soybeans, referred to corn and soybean farming as a hobby because the amount of work needed to produce those crops is very much less than is needed to produce vegetables.

There were a number of other factors that led to farmers calling it quits. A big one was the problems they have with flooding when water from higher ground filled their low lying fields following heavy rainfall. Also they had a big problem with soil loss because organic soil can blow away during dry weather and burn up during hot weather. In addition they had difficulty competing with the very large farms that dominate vegetable production in the United States. The drop off in the number of growers brought my work in Hollandale to an end. However, I have many good memories from the years I spent working with those farmers.

What’s the toughest job you ever quit?

59 thoughts on “Hard Times in Hollandale”

  1. I don’t know as I have ever quit something because it was hard. I mostly have left in sheer frustration because the powers that be state an objective, but show little interest in facilitating its achievement.

    There was the academic year I was a PhD student in anatomy and my lab duties included immobilizing rats by taping them down and measuring how that stress affected their blood pressure.

    That amongst other things is why Ieft that program.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The black and white picture in the text is from a small publication about the history of Hollandale. Some of the other pictures of farms in that publication show smaller fields filled with a several different vegetable crops. I think that pictures probably shows one of the largest potato fields from the early history of Hollandale.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had my tiny book business on one wall of books in the shop of a friend. When she decided to call it quits, I was able to sell to another person who turned it into a full-fledged bookstore. I agreed to stay on for six months as her assistant while she got set up. She is one of the people in the world I don’t get along . I enjoyed the work, but not the relationship, and was really counting the days till I could say goodbye.


    1. BiR, I’m trying to imagine a person with whom you would have conflict. And it defeats me. You are so good-natured and cooperative I can’t picture you having difficulty with someone you tried to get long with. She must have been “something else.”

      Liked by 2 people

        1. While I agree that being able to get along with people is an important skill, I have come to think of silence as a cowardly way of becoming complicit in objectionable behaviors. For the longest time I would not challenge hateful, sexist or racial comments by others, didn’t want to offend anyone. While I still don’t like speaking up – it often makes others uncomfortable – I’m much more likely to challenge statements that touch a nerve.

          A fair amount of my friends are old, and some of their beliefs have not evolved with the times, and from time to time we lock horns over racial and social issues. Fortunately we have all lived long enough to not harbor ill will over these differences, and maybe, just maybe, I have caused at least some of them to reassess what they believe.


  4. I have five years until my age and my years of service in my current job add up to 85. I can retire with my pension at that point. I believe I will retire, and I have been thinking what I want to do then, as I won’t reach official Federal retirement age for a couple more years.

    Husband retired almost two years ago, and he is working as hard now as he did before he retired. He works 3 days a week on the reservation supervises an in-home therapist for Lutheran Social Services, has a small private practice one night a week, and is starting to lecture at our local college. He also serves on the IRRB committee at the college (they approve any research there involving live creatures), and the regional Behavior Management Committee (they approve behavior plans for DD individuals). I don’t know if I want to be that busy when I retire.

    I see the majority of children in our region who need therapy, and unless things change dramatically, there will be no one to replace me, as we can’t fill empty positions (no one applies) and there are so few private providers. I don’t want to keep working out of guilt, and I don’t know if I want the hassle of a private practice. I worry I won’t be able to turn people away, and I know I will have more work than I could handle. Our only option may be to move out of state. Husband wants to move to Brookings, SD, where our son and DIL live. South Dakota? I don’t know if I could manage that. I have my standards! We shall see.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. you have 5 years to get the bugsout a private practice scenario. no one to tell you what to how to went to may be good. get the private end buttoned up before you begin and have someone hired to do the stuff you dont want to be buried in. then tell the state the conditions of how you will work, they dont have a choice it sounds like. could be a model for how to do this nationwde i cant imagine you are the only place this is an issue. fix it . that can be your retirement program.


  5. Being the editor of a magazine was the most satisfying and exciting job I ever had. I worked long hours cheerfully because I loved my job. But because of our management’s poor business practices, it was an enormously challenging job. For over six years I enjoyed the thrill of doing a job well that could have been done by very few men alive.

    But the owner of the magazine became tired of my criticisms of his way of doing business. Someone took him aside and convinced him he didn’t have to put up with me. He hired a more compliant fellow–a drunk who told the owner what he wanted to hear–and installed that fellow over me. I had no choice but to quit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are, Renee, but you don’t really need a lot of space to grow potatoes. I’ve done it successfully in a bed no bigger than 4′ x 10′.

      My dad once scandalized the “posh” neighborhood he and my mother moved into when they returned to Copenhagen after several years as pub owners in Drogheda by digging up their front lawn and planting potatoes instead.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, I suppose we could dig up yet more of our front yard for a row of potatoes. I am rather cross with our next door neighbor (something about which I will submit a post), and I know our vegetable garden in front annoys him, so maybe even more veggie space will really bug him.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I usually grow a very small patch of heirloom potatoes, only enough to provide seed for the next year for other seed savers. When I did consulting, the growers would give me as many potatoes as i could us. After I stopped doing consulting I could buy 50 lb. bags of potatoes in Holland at the whole sale price or lower. I did help my daughter grow a small patch for her use last year and I might put in a larger patch this year for her and for me.


      1. Some of the small potatoes sold in stores that look like new potatoes are just small ones separated from larger ones harvested at the end of the season. Very young new potatoes are very tender and will spoil if they sit out in the sun too long. I left some new potatoes sitting out too long that I dug up when checking some young plants for a farmer. They became sun scalded and weren’t any good.


  7. In 2007, I decided my life was too isolated so I got a part time job at the local Caribou Coffee store. Everyone else working there was at least 30 years my junior and were excellent multi-taskers. I, on the other hand, had sheer panic if there was more than one drink on the screen at a time. Due to the intimidation of even making drinks, I stuck at the cash register unless demanded to do the barista thing.

    Other problem arose, too. My cash drawer never once balanced out. My apron strings got caught in the register drawer and the manager would have to unlock it. Once, we had a special meeting about being on our best behavior that week because the CEO was coming in and acting like a regular costumer. A day later, a nice man came in and asked how I liked the job. I responded with; “Well – it’s great but I’m nervous today because the corporate big wig might show up so we have to impress every guest just in case it’s him”. Of course, as luck would have it, he was the CEO.

    The day came where I had to be a barista. A woman asked for a latte, the simplest drink of all. I steamed the milk, hit the expresso button, and proudly gave her the latte. Within a minute, she was back because the drink tasted awful.

    The shift supervisor saw exactly why. There were three expresso machines and I’d used the one that was being cleaned at the time. In other words, I had poisoned the guest with cleaning fluid. For weeks, I was nervous that the Wayzata Caribou would be sued.

    Not long after this incident, my hours were incrementally cut down to only three. Humiliated, I resigned.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. right job wrong location. you need to be the sassy broad with the order pad giving the regulars flack and refilling the bottomless cup of coffee form that silver coffee pot as you walk around making wise cracks and pouring coffee and asking about the wife and kids. i think 318 in excelsior is hiring. get over there and ask.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. the question is the hardest job you ever quit. i thought it was the job that was something else and i came up with a different answer. this job is multiple answer without my having to rephrase. with the rephrase it gets more meandering as i progress. the toughest job i ever had was construction work quarrying limestone. i have spoke of this many times here on the tril. swinging sledge hammers 6 pack rippled abs 19 years old ready for my adventures to go off and see the world in my vw van. hard job, not hard to quit. ready to go out and chart a new course. always have been. i was thinking about that the other day. other people are afrid of trying a new thing and starting over. it may be what i am best at. not from an investor for pay angle but for a true understanding of how to do a start up. ask me ill tell you, watch me ill confuse you.
    the most difficult to quit because i loved it may have been the repping business/ import business. i guess its not officially done. i still fill out the tax forms for my corporation and have a fistful of dba’s under the title but i have reinvented the nature of the beast to give it a chance to thrive.
    i am smiling becauset he way my brain went with this at 4am when i first read it this morning took me back to early teen days when the job that was the easiest for me to love and toughest to quit was that of a drug salesman. i thought that was a great job. i got what i wanted by helping a few other people get what they wanted.. the fact that it was il advised was the final deciding factor in stopping. i saw a bob dylan interview where the punchline was be dsure what the consequences ar for the stuff you are doing in other countries. you may be locked up for a long time with no recourse. thats what stopped me form selling drugs, fear of being caught. i thought drugs were in a similar place as where i think of massage today. just a way to feel good and lose a little tension and a very nice way to spend an afternoon or evening. i would buy a pound make 16 ounces and take a little out of each one for myself. i got what i wanted so did everyone else. it taught me sales and people and was a great learning experience but i hope my children make it through life without my same learning curve.
    i missed the people at the old folks home when i left because of a misunderstanding they thought i was voicing. it was time to move on but i loved those old people. i missed my friends at the mann france avenue drive in when i was rewriting the job description to make every aspect of the job a joy and a fun social interaction. the best team i have ever been a part of. when i left old mr welsh said he had never seen anything like it and never would again. everybody liked everybody and had fun and planned activities outside of work and during work and the stuff we came up with was so enjoyable. he was smart enough to sit bcck and watch us turn a $1.00 per hour job into a love fest. no other bosses since then have allowed that. i have this one ass of a boss…. oh wait thats me.
    ill bet a model for truck farming could be made very profitable today for anyone who wanted to try it. fresh local is the thing we all strive for and a couple extra bucks for the grower is fine as long as the health issue is in your face. value and payback not price.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Several years ago, I worked in a home health care agency providing PCA’s and nurses to clients who required care in their home and had a contract. This was a small business and I worked out of the basement of the owners home — not great conditions. She was blond, not very smart and was not up to snuff on the numerous regulations involved, so we were back pedaling to get the necessary requirements met for employees: TB shots, background checks, etc. Plus, these were plush times with lots of jobs and very few people willing to work as PCA’s.

    I remember a couple clients who were paraplegics and HAD to have care every day just to get out of bed. Unfortunately, they were also difficult people and we had the worst time finding and keeping staff for them. I have never been so stressed out as i was when trying to fill these positions and hire people. Sorry to say, I practically hired folks off the street without meeting them just to make sure the positions were staffed. It was horrible. I dreaded calls from these clients and sometimes just let them go to voicemail when i couldn’t handle their complaints. Sunday afternoons and evenings would find me despairing about going to work Monday morning. I finally quit after 6 months when I found ANY type of temporary work I could get. Such a relief. With any luck, this place is closed down.


    1. Joanne, while I think the position you were put in is god awful, I really don’t think your boss’ blonde hair had anything to with it. Why perpetuate these insulting and silly stereotypes?


      1. I’m in the process of putting the finishing touches on a blog about it, Steve. The answer to your question is yes, I have a small portrait that he did of me in pen and ink.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. As a consultant serving the vegetable growers I could see that they were often having a rough time of it. However, many of the growers were second generation farmers and knew what they were getting into because they had grown up on the farms. I think the hardest thing was that some of the second generation farmers got in trouble and lost the farms that thier parents had worked hard to establish. Also, some the children of the second generation farmers did not seem to be very interest in taking over the farms from their parents. I think the son of the operator of one of the last remaining vegetable farms did seem to be interested in taking over the management of that farm.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. The OTHER hardest job I had to leave was when I landed a mid-year public school teaching job in Half Moon Bay, CA – the town I had already moved to south of San Francisco. I was still commuting 45 minutes north, so when this came up I grabbed it, but I had to tell the kindergartener’s at St. Anne’s of the Sunset (not kidding). As I was trying to explain to them that I would be leaving after Christmas and why, John C. raised his hand and said “Could we not talk about this any more?” Sniff…


    1. BiR, I can relate to that feeling. When I left the first job I had in Minnesota – food service supervisor at Northwestern Hospital (now merged with Abbott) – it was because it was obvious that being a woman in that organization was an impediment to getting ahead.

      I absolutely loved working with all the employees on the evening tray-line for which I was responsible, especially the high-school students and student nurses. A spirited bunch, for sure, and from time to time in need of a gentle correction. As when I caught them climbing into the food elevators that operated between floors. Terribly dangerous, and not very sanitary. But good kids, really good kids; a terrific team.

      When I left after only nine months they threw me a party, and with the money they had collected to buy me a gift they gave me a large bouquet of red roses, a bottle of champagne, and two books by Herman Hesse. The older women, the long-time and permanent staff of that shift, were aghast that the kids had squandered the money that way. I reassured them that I didn’t think it was a waste of money. It was a clear signal that they had appreciated me as much as I had appreciated them.

      Liked by 2 people

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