What William Waldoch planted, descendants cultivate

Photo by Cliff Buchan During the Sunday, Aug. 21, 100th anniversary garden tours at Waldoch Farm, Jeff Joyer drove the hay wagon that carried farm visitors to Kathy Waldoch Rivard’s home where her garden was on display.
Photo by Cliff Buchan
During the Sunday, Aug. 21, 100th anniversary garden tours at Waldoch Farm, Jeff Joyer drove the hay wagon that carried farm visitors to Kathy Waldoch Rivard’s home where her garden was on display.

William V. Waldoch was no different than the thousands of other area residents who moved north from the Twin Cities to find land while holding a job in the big city. He wanted a better life for his family and a place to put down roots.

But there is a big difference in Waldoch’s story compared to the suburban migration that has taken place the last 40 years: Waldoch started his move 100 years ago.

Submitted photo William Waldoch started the farm in 1916 when he purchased 48 acres of land near what would become the border of Columbus and Lino Lakes.
Submitted photo
William Waldoch started the farm in 1916 when he purchased 48 acres of land near what would become the border of Columbus and Lino Lakes.

It was 1916 when the St. Paul resident and son of Polish immigrants purchased 48 acres on a rural Anoka County road in what is today the city of Lino Lakes, just north of Main Street and just south of the Columbus border. Three years later, the 30-year-old Waldoch, his wife, Anna, and children Helen, Joe, Leona and John moved to the farm. By the 1930s the farm had grown to 200 acres and children George, Lucille, Dan and Ray joined the family.

William Waldoch was a big city commuter of a different kind. A printer by trade, Waldoch did not give up his St. Paul job to farm. At the start of each week, he would walk and catch a ride to the Northern Pacific train station in Hugo and make the trip to St. Paul, where he would remain for the week.

“He wanted to raise a family on a farm and still have a job in the Twin Cities,” said Andrew Joyer, a great-grandson and the son of Waldoch’s granddaughter and husband, Mary and Jeff Joyer, the owners of Waldoch Farm today. “He’d spend five days each week in the cities,” Andrew said.

He would remain a commuter for 55 years before retiring from his first profession at age 75 in the early 1960s. He continued to sell produce at his roadside stand and work in the fields up until his death at age 100 in 1989.

“He liked the land,” said Mary Joyer. It was a love not lost on Waldoch generations to come as today the fifth generation of family members is involved to some extent with the Waldoch Farm operation.

That William Waldoch would land on a farm as opposed to remaining a big city resident is no surprise, family members believe. He was the fifth of 12 children and the family got by in part on farming. The family had a garden at their home and worked a larger plot of land 1 mile away for more garden produce. Chickens and a small herd of cows provided milk, butter, eggs and meat to help the family sustain itself.

Today vs. yesterday

The Waldoch Farm operation is far different today than it was when William Waldoch first started working the land. It is change that has happened gradually and reflects the evolving landscape of the north metro and its population.

In the early years, Anna Waldoch organized the family duties on the farm while William and the boys worked the fields, growing oats, rye, buckwheat and hay to feed the herd of 30 dairy cattle and chickens. Milk, eggs and chickens were sold to supplement the family income while a host of garden vegetables – carrots, beets, melons, onions, cucumbers – were grown for sale and family consumption.

Photos by Cliff Buchan Natalie Joyer Peterson, 15, of Lino Lakes, a junior at Forest Lake High School, cleans cucumbers for a customer. The granddaughter of Mary and Jeff Joyer is a fifth-generation family member employed at Waldoch Farm.
Photos by Cliff Buchan
Natalie Joyer Peterson, 15, of Lino Lakes, a junior at Forest Lake High School, cleans cucumbers for a customer. The granddaughter of Mary and Jeff Joyer is a fifth-generation family member employed at Waldoch Farm.

By 1928, the produce-selling months would find Waldoch stocking vegetables in a cart that was placed near the road. It operated on an honor system as customers left money for the produce they desired. By 1933, Waldoch built a roadside stand that served as a sales point. The historic stand remains a cornerstone of the Waldoch Farm garden center headquarters.

There were long days of hard field work for the Waldoch kids.

George Waldoch, the first Waldoch child born on the farm in 1919, remembers those days well.

“You could rest when you got to the shade trees,” he said, thinking back to hot days of hoeing long rows of garden vegetables. If the work was completed, there were rewards, including a Fourth of July journey to Forest Lake for the Independence Day parade.

George, now 97, lives in Jacksonville, Florida, but he has maintained one of the skills he learned on the farm. He was 6 when he followed in the footsteps of brother John in working bees. The bees were pollinators for the family gardens and yielded honey that was sold from the farm.

After serving in the Navy during World War II with station duty in Florida, George Waldoch married and settled in Jacksonville. He continues to work with bees and tends to about 100 hives on farms in the Jacksonville area. Honey from the bees is sold under the Waldoch Apiary label from a roadside stand at his home. Like his father, George’s sales are on the honor system.

He was home in July for the Waldoch Family 100th year anniversary reunion celebration. More than 150 family members turned out.

Tradition continues

William and Anna Waldoch lived long enough to see a third generation of family members continue full-time involvement in the farm. The initial 48-acre farm eventually grew to just over 200 acres. For 30 years, sons Joe and John dairy farmed on the home place before moving off to farms of their own in Columbus and Center City.

Dan Waldoch, William and Anna’s second youngest, came home from World War II service in the Army Air Force and settled on the farm, where he built a home and began a family in 1947. A pilot in the military, Dan Waldoch flew commercial airliners for 25 years for what is today Delta Airlines.

Like his father, he coupled a career with farming. On the Waldoch acreage, he ran beef cattle and grew hay and grain for cattle feed. It wasn’t long until he secured a pickle contract and began growing acres of cucumbers. Daughters Mary Waldoch (Joyer) and Kathy Waldoch (Rivard) got their hands dirty at a young age weeding and picking cukes. A portion of the harvest was sold at farmers markets throughout the metro area.

Caleb Joyer Peterson, 5, and brother, Eli, 4, pictured with their uncle, Doug Joyer, are at the wheel of a 1940 era Allis G tractor that is still used on Waldoch Farm. The little boys are fifth-generation Waldochs.
Caleb Joyer Peterson, 5, and brother, Eli, 4, pictured with their uncle, Doug Joyer, are at the wheel of a 1940 era Allis G tractor that is still used on Waldoch Farm. The little boys are fifth-generation Waldochs.

It was money well-earned for the sisters, as the produce paid their college expenses. Mary, a 1971 graduate of Thomas L. Grace High School in Fridley, went on to St. Cloud State Teachers College where she earned an elementary education teaching degree. Kathy, a 1974 graduate of Forest Lake High School, earned a clothing textile and design degree after attending the University of Wisconsin-Stout and the Minneapolis Technical Institute.

By 1974, Dan Waldoch had taken over control of the business at 8174 Lake Drive and would run it for the next 30 years until his passing in 2004. Mary and Kathy’s mother, Lucille, passed two years later. Gradually, daughters Mary and Kathy came back to the business, Mary in a partnership role with her father.

Mary and Jeff had met at Grace High School. After marriage, they moved back to the Waldoch home in 1982, buying the old farm home where William and Anna had lived.

“We were farming with dad,” Mary said.

Kathy and Blake Rivard married after college and settled in Albert Lea, where they lived for three years. Kathy’s heart was rooted in the farm, however, and the couple moved back and built a home on the farmstead. Kathy worked on the farm and started Rivard Tailoring.

“Over the years, it morphed,” Kathy said of her farm involvement.

“Now my tailoring business is open one day a week and I am here six days,” she added. “I wanted to play in the dirt, too.”

With Mary working alongside her father, the business began to expand. The first greenhouse was built in 1990 as the owners recognized the growing value and potential of the retail floral business. Sales of produce sales remained strong, but the retail transformation was in full swing.

In 1997, the Joyers purchased Dan Waldoch’s business share. There were some bumps in the road as the business became established.

“It wasn’t always great,” Mary said.

Jeff Joyer’s income from his real estate business became a lifeline in the early years of their ownership until the business pushed down deep roots.

Modern adaptation

The family tradition has continued with a fourth generation of Waldochs now earning their livelihood from the farm. Forest Lake High School and University of Minnesota graduates Andrew and Doug Joyer are involved full-time and utilizing environmental horticulture degrees to help the business grow. All six Joyer kids have job history on the farm and continue to help out on occasion.
A number of fifth-generation family members are involved in various capacities at Waldoch Farm. They are among the three dozen seasonal workers who work the fields much as William and Anna’s kids did years before.

The farm today has 10,000 square feet of production and retail space in 11 buildings occupying 2 acres. The garden center generates 70 to 75 percent of the farm’s revenue as May and June are banner months for sales. Some 35 acres are under cultivation for produce, with 15 acres devoted to pumpkins.

No longer does Waldoch Farm count on wholesale contracts for loading and hauling produce to farmers markets.

“The population has increased around us,” Doug Joyer said. “The customer comes to us.”

Mary and Kathy believe their grandfather was pleased that their father continued in the business. Dan Waldoch would be pleased with what Waldoch Farm has become.

“He would think it was exciting,” Kathy said of her father. “Our dad was always forward thinking.”

Mary and Jeff are equally pleased that two of their sons have come into the business. There was no pressure for the boys to come home.

“They were busy in high school and college with activities, but they worked (on the farm),” Mary said.

“We wanted to keep the farm a farm and keep the land together,” she added. “If the next generation wanted to come in, that was great. We didn’t force anyone.”

Diversification has been the key to success. With May and June the top months for garden center sales, the farm counts on produce to fill the balance of the summer and early fall. Customers can buy produce over the counter or go to the fields for a “pick-your-own” experience. The farm’s huge corn maze is designed with a 2016 centennial theme and operates in conjunction with the Joyer Barnyard, where the young and old can visit with a wide range of farm animals.

On Oct. 31, the business closes for the winter, but the work for the next season is only beginning. After a late fall and early winter review of the previous year’s operations, as well as work on tax and business reports and doing maintenance and field clean-up, the staff awaits the February arrival of the first shipment of plants that will fill the garden center in the spring.

In many ways, the business is different from the early days when William Waldoch labored to build a farming operation. Yet it is similar in many ways. During the Depression and later during World War II, many of the Waldoch cousins called the farm home for extended periods and took turns working the fields and canning and freezing vegetables for the winter to come.

“Everybody worked,” Mary Joyer said. And to that extent, the labor of the Waldoch clan is still a key fabric of the Waldoch Farm operation.