Information reprinted from
1986 Brooklyn Center Sun-Post supplement.
Brooklyn Center was a farming community until the 1950s. The farms were not large. Some of the families lived on 20 Acres of land growing vegetables. The average was 40 or 60 acres with the largest 100 acres, but the 20 acres of hand-harvested land is a lot of ground to cover.
Their farms near to Minneapolis markets, Brooklyn Center truck farmers would load their trucks the night before to be at the market at least by 5 a.m. Grocers would come to buy their produce early to get the best vegetables. At home, the family would cut asparagus, for example, bunch it and get it ready to load for the next day.
Some of the growers were Ralph, Stan and Sig Edling; George, Walt and Ray Brunsell; and Al Rydeen. Their farms later were to become Brookdale. Across the road on Brooklyn Blvd., then called Osseo Road, were Arden Burnquest, George Grim, Adolph Boyson and Paul Pearson, near the 63rd Ave. N. area were Frank and Roy Howe, Mert Land. Going north, were Dan Lane, Dave and Del Magnusson, Richard Pengilly, Frank Locke, Stanley Leathers and the Larsons. On 69th near Palmer Lake were Ed Ham and George Keefe—to name a few of the old families of Brooklyn Center.
THE RAILROAD TRACKS at the Minneapolis-Brooklyn Center border were a center for potato and onion growers of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park and Osseo to ship their produce. Everett Howe was a buyer of broker, and shipped boxcars full of produce to Chicago. Later, his sons, Frank and Roy Howe, were brokers and shipped out produce where Howe Fertilizer is now located at 49th and Brooklyn Blvd.
Because of the growers and easy access to Minneapolis, there were numerous greenhouses in Brooklyn Center. Malmborg’s, 5120 Brooklyn Blvd., was started in 1906 by Henry Nelson, father of Marv Nelson and the grandfather of Steve Nelson, the owner of Lynbrook Bowl. It was sold to the Rice family, later to Lloyd Malmborg and then to George Lucht and two partners. Weber’s, 5040 Brooklyn Blvd., began in 1926. The Hans Rosacker greenhouse was on the northeast corn of 57th Ave. N.; Miller’s on 56th and Brooklyn Blvd.; and the Brooklyn Center Greenhouses at 61st. Madsen’s started at 5501 Aldrich Ave. N. in 1926, and is now located at 49th and Brooklyn Blvd.
The flat, sandy soil of Brooklyn Center was ideal for fast growing, but suffered during dry spells- such as during the lean Depression years. In the 1930s, Al Rydeen’s family was first to irrigate with small pipes carrying the water built up on a frame. About the same time, Roy Howe started laying larger irrigation pipes between rows primarily for potatoes. The pipes had to be moved night and day after homes were constructed in the area.
Another disadvantage of the flat, sandy soil was the damage wind could do. “The wind could cut young plants off the ground,” Leone Howe said. “The solution was to plant hedges around a field. It was rare to see any fields over 30 acres without a hedge of trees. Brooklyn Center then was rows and rows of hedges, rows and rows of vegetables.”
IN THE WINTER, farmers would cut ice or lease their horses to the lumber industry in northern Minnesota. Some farmers cut, and then sold Christmas trees at the market. Some had a contract to clean out railroad boxcars used to haul animals so they could use the manure to spread on the fields, according to Howe. Some later hauled manure from South St. Paul stockyards.
Howe said that Brooklyn Center was charming during the truck farming era with Osseo Road, later called Brooklyn Blvd. and its main street, lined with huge elm trees, fields for plants in every color and many rows of water sprinklers.
“The farm buildings were rather small, compared to a dairy farm, therefore houses were closer together. The other buildings included a white country church, quaint general store, good-sized school buildings and a garage-gas station, all mostly around Brooklyn Blvd. and 69th,” Howe said.
After World War II, the housing boom came to the suburbs and land became too valuable to sell or be taxed. Growers began to look for other places to farm. Many of them are in the Big Lake and Elk River areas today.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Information for this story was provided by Leone Howe, a member of the Brooklyn Historical Society.