Posted: August 16, 2022

Honoring Centennial/Sesquicentennial Farms in DeKalb County

Svendsen Farm

City: Earlville (Rollo)
Township: Paw Paw
Original Date of Purchase: 1907-1908
Current Owner: Jeffrey Adam Svendsen
Acres: 80 (Originally 160)

Farm History

Coming to America first in 1886, Cornelius Svendsen set out to explore a new world. After four hard years of work, he was able to journey home near Stavanger, Norway and return with his bride-to-be Karoline (Carolyn Fjermestad). After years of building a life in Leland the opportunity to purchase land northeast of Earlville (Rollo) came. By Feb. 20, 1908 the Svendsen’s had purchased 160 acres from William and S. Eliza Stevens.

The Svendsen Family homestead is shown in its bustling prime, around 1950. All the structures were removed by the 1980s.

The lot of land was not just any old plot of farmland but home to Stevens Cemetery and the Whitman Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was later moved and converted into a garage, due to Rollo Consolidated School opening in 1913. As the years went on, the farm grew; in the summer of 1917 a large barn was erected with another to follow a decade later.

The Whitman Schoolhouse occupied some of the Svendsen farmland on the northeast corner of Svendsen and Hyde roads. The school closed in 1913 when Rollo Consolidated School opened.

As the farm grew so did the Svendsen family. What had started as just four sons: Truman, Clarence, Christian, and Mervin, turned into 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren by the time they hit their Golden Wedding Anniversary. With those numbers the family continued to operate the homestead, even still today as the 5th generation took ownership in 2019.

Running primarily as your standard Midwestern grain and livestock farm, throughout the years it has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The farm has continued to follow through the trends of the decades seeing cribs full of white corn and lots full of Poland China stock hogs. In recent years the farm operates with only remnants of what was and dreams of what could be. Blessed to continue old ideas with a new mindset, we see the farm today, traditionally the same but different.

Kora Svendsen, Jeff’s daughter, is shown foraging for calendula on the farm for a homespun salve.

Much like Cornelius coming to America “to see what it was like,” Jeffrey Adam Svendsen wants to see what it’s like to try. Eager to try new ideas, and old ones in new places, he finds a wealth of knowledge that would make his ancestors proud. Alongside the trend of hemp production, a strip of native prairie has begun to establish to “help beautify the roadside,” bringing more pollinators back as his current livestock. Creating a true learning environment is the hope for not only the current and sixth generations, but for more Svendsen’s to come.

Jeffrey Adam Svendsen is the current owner of the family’s Centennial Farm, the 5th generation of Svendsens.

A good story cannot be completed without a shroud of mystery. In 1919 when Karoline pricked her finger with a needle, the small injury went ignored. That small prick led to the amputation of her finger in hopes to stop an infection. Sadly, the infection had spread further leading to the amputation of her hand. Family rumor has it that the hand is in a jar buried around the foundation of the homestead. The hand has yet to be found!

The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Centennial and Sesquicentennial Farm Program honors family farms for 100+ years. The DeKalb County Farm Bureau recognizes these local farms and families – the sixth in a series of features. To have your farm featured, contact the Farm Bureau.