Seed for family farm planted in 1904
By Patricia Buschette
There is probably no other words to better describe the Sander and Peggy Ludeman family of Tracy, Minn., than “family” and “tradition.” Family traditions reach back generations and have no signs of stopping in the Ludeman family.
It all goes back to Sander Ludeman I, who was born in Germany. After his death, his wife Tobilina came to America with their children. Their son, Sander Ludeman II, along with his wife Remeda and their 12 children, lived in Iowa. In 1904, Sander II bought what was described as a “cheap” farm in Southwest Minnesota.
At first he sent his 24-year-old son, Sander III, from Iowa to operate the farm. The project did not work out, and after a few months, Sander III told his father that he was not going to continue farming. His father was determined that he would continue, and sent him back with his brother and a sister to work the farm. Thus began the Ludeman farming venture in Minnesota. According to his grandson, “Grandpa met a neighbor girl and married her.”
Sander III and Pauline were married in 1906. They farmed the land and raised three children, a daughter Bernice, and two sons, Sander IV and Loren. Sander IV and Mary Lou’s farming tradition would continue through their sons, Sander V, Brian, and Cal.
Sander V, who was born in 1947, took his place in the tradition of agriculture and Ludeman namesakes. More often referred to as Sandy, he describes himself as reserved in high school. “I was fairly quiet and in the background.”
Things changed when he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul Campus. “I became friends with Dean Keith McFarland, Dean of the College of Agriculture. We got to know each other,” Sandy said, “I would knock on his door and he would invite me in.’”
When Sandy identified a problem, he also identified an answer. For example, there was the scheduling problem of an event planned at the same time as a meeting of the Block and Bridle Club. “I suggested a campus calendar, and Dean McFarland thought it was a good idea. The idea was brought to a faculty advisor and it took off.”
Sandy was selected for participation in the Danforth Fellowship Foundation for outstanding seniors and spent two weeks in St. Louis learning about the food industry.
“It opened one’s eyes that there are many age-related opportunities. During that time, I met other students, and we became known as ‘Danny Boys.’”
Sandy graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1969 with a degree in agriculture economics, the same year he married Peggy Jean Anderson, a fellow high school 4-H club member. He had planned to go to law school, but went back to Tracy to help his father on the farm after a hired man left, and stayed on. The Ludeman home is in the shadow of Amiret, a small unincorporated community in Lyon County.
Over the years, it has been more than production agriculture that has captured the interest of Sandy Ludeman. His focus on policy was possible through Ben Ludeman, son of Cal Ludeman, Sandy’s brother. Ben is the only member of his generation of the family that was interested in farming.
In the late 1970s, Sandy served on the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, and in 1982 was elected the youngest chair of the council. He later served on the American Soybean Development Foundation, precursor of United Soybean Board.
“In 1991, as Chairman of the United Soybean Board, I was part of a trade team to determine what obstacles needed to be overcome in order to sell more soybeans to China. The group included Peggy, Dr. Ken Bader, CEO of the American Soybean Association, and his wife Linda. We met with their equivalent of Department of Commerce. We also met with users of soybeans and soybean meal, hog operations, feed mills, and aqua-culture, including a turtle breeding farm to determine whether it was a market for beans.”
Tours of shipping facilities and railroad operations determined how products could get to the end user. “We also got an idea of how much their own soybean growers could meet market needs. This was shared with the Foreign Agricultural Service and our in-country director so they could do the leg work to make it happen.”
“I had the same opportunity to do this in Moscow, working with vegetable oil processors, and in Venezuela, with turkey and hog producers.”
Was it successful? “Sometimes there are immediate returns; sometimes it takes years to come to fruition.”
While Sandy was promoting soybeans, the farm continued to function with the help of the rest of the family.
Peggy experienced her own challenges with Sandy’s travel and involvement in the development of the soybean industry. Sandy, by his own admission, missed school activities as their children Sander Ludeman VI and Dayna Ludeman grew up on the family farm. Sandy has credited Peggy, with shouldering the parenting load during his years of agricultural leadership. He was once quoted as saying, “She’s been the best partner all the way through. For a lot of those years, she was mom and part-time dad, too.”
Peggy appeared to take it all in stride and referred to her support system. “There were grandparents over the river and through the woods, as well as two brothers with their families.”
While Sandy’s interests are organizational, Peggy’s interests run on a more creative track as she has designed and created 75-100 quilts over the years. “I don’t do squares,” she said emphatically as she displayed the few quilts she has kept for the family.
“We have a bible camp at Lake Shetek that has a quilt auction every year, the last Saturday in June,” Peggy explained. For years, her friend and neighbor, Elaine Nyquist, then owner of Fabrics Plus in Marshall, led a group of quilters that met at Shetek Lutheran Ministries once a month to create quilts for the auction. One of Peggy’s quilts netted $2,300.
Peggy received inspiration and advice from Elaine. “I would bring her a quilt and she would help me figure it out. She was good with math, and could figure out proportions to help.”
Elaine helped her make special ones for graduations of grandchildren who received a personalized quilt when they graduated. A special family quilt illustrates aspects of the Ludeman farming operation.
A unique quilt is the Purple Lady quilt. “My mother-in law embroidered the ladies on dish towels, four or more on one towel. She drew the ladies herself, her own designs. I had to figure how to cut them apart so the blocks were all the same size, and find a quilt design that would work.” It took years for Peggy to find a motif that she liked.
Another quilt took a very long time to create as she worked on it for years, as she made portions of it while visiting family and on trips to Australia and Ireland.
The Ludemans have been generous advocates of the University of Minnesota, Sandy’s alma mater. In 2010, Sandy won the Siehl prize that is awarded for Excellence in Agriculture, paying tribute to the spirit of agriculture. Honorees are those who promote study, enhance production, and advance methods of distributing food and knowledge.
“I used the $50,000 stipend on scholarships for upper classmen at the University. That scholarship has been in existence 13 years, supporting 16 students. The Land-Grant Legacy Scholars (LGLS) program was developed to honor commitment to support students from Greater Minnesota with diverse backgrounds who are admitted to the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS). “Due to a U of M Foundation match, we are helping two students a year. The scholarship is known as the Sander and Peggy Ludeman Land Grant Legacy Scholarship.”
Peggy feels good about the scholarship program. “I got scholarships when I went to college to be a Home Ec teacher. My goal was to be a designer. However, when I lived in the Twin Cities, I knew designers lived in New York or Paris, and I wasn’t that excited about St. Paul!
In 2018, Sandy was the recipient of the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades-long service to agriculture.
Sandy and Peggy are now retired.
“This was the first year I was totally independent – the first year I did not drive a truck,” Sandy said. “I raise tomatoes and my bad habit is going to meetings.”
The Ludeman children have moved far from Lyon County. Sander Ludeman VI lives in Mankato where he works for Edward Jones.
Is there a Sander Ludeman VII? Yes, there is! Born in 2002, Sander VII is a junior at Minnesota State-Mankato, where he studies business.
He will do well. He has generations of business-minded forebears who provide inspiration.