Two Carlton County farms named Century Farms

Aho Family Farm in Cloquet and Fabrello Family Farm in Holyoke have been owned by the same family for more than 100 years.

Roy Aho of Aho Farms has spent more than 53 years working on the rural Cloquet farm his grandfather founded in 1917. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

Roy Aho spent the morning of Tuesday, April 14, much like he has most of his mornings for the last 50 years — tending cattle.

He was getting ready for a neighbor to use his tractor to take some hay to feed the beef cattle he raises in rural Cloquet. Aho said the weather was cold enough that he could have used one of the smaller tractors he owns to do the job, but decided to let his neighbor take care of it anyway.

Aho Farms and Fabrello Family Farm in Holyoke were named Century Farms April 7 by the Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota Farm Bureau. To qualify for the designation, farms must have been in continuous family ownership for more than 100 years and are larger than 50 acres.

Tim Oland owns the Fabrello Family Farm, which was founded in 1919 by his grandfather, Antonio Fabrello, an Italian immigrant. Oland’s farm currently produces mostly hay crops, but once also held beef and dairy cattle. He started working on the farm in the 1980s to help out his grandparents. He took over ownership from his sister in 2006.

“I lived with my grandparents when I was a single young man in my early 20s, and I helped them count wood, take care of the cows, things like that because they needed the help,” Oland said. “I took that time of my life to really get to know my grandparents, and I don't regret one minute of it.”


Tim Oland (right) drives a tractor and as his grandfather, Antonio Fabrello, rides on a piece of equipment shortly after Oland started working on the farm in the 1980s. (Photo courtesy of Tim Oland)

Aho has owned his family farm for the past 53 years. He took over ownership from his father in the late 1960s after returning from service in the U.S. Navy. Aho's grandfather, Finnish immigrant Oskar Aho, founded the farm in 1917.

When Aho’s father took over the farm in 1951, they were still feeding the cattle using two horses, he said.

“My dad bought the first tractor, a big old Ford Fordson with steel wheels,” Aho said. “Then we went to buying John Deeres.”

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Aho Farms has been owned by the same family since 1917. This photo shows the farm as it appeared in the 1920s. The barn on the left is one of two structures left on the property from that time period. (Photo courtesy of Roy Aho)

The oldest structures on the Aho farm is a barn built in the 1920s and — in true Finnish fashion — a sauna.

In addition to farming, Aho worked for more than 40 years at the Cloquet paper mill, from it’s time as the Northwest Paper Co. until just after it was purchased by Sappi. He typically got up around 3:30 a.m. to milk the cows when they were still raising dairy cattle. When he was forced to work overtime at the mill, Aho’s wife, Rose, and their daughters would take over the dairy.

“Our three daughters, there’s nothing they can’t do on the farm,” Aho said. “They ran the equipment, they raised the cows.”

Both men said farming has gotten more difficult as small family farms were overtaken by corporate farming in the 1980s. Oland said he thinks with the coronavirus outbreak and a rapidly changing economy, there may be a shift back to smaller family farms.

“With the way things are and where the economy is going, these small family farms might be a hidden gem in disguise,” Oland said. “I think people may have to go back to having small farms to produce their own food ... My grandfather always taught us to try to be as self-sufficient as possible; grow your own food, raise your own meat and know the source of your food.”

Today, Fabrello Family Farm is being worked by Oland’s daughter, Tina Bielecki, and her family. Her children are the fifth generation of his family to work on the farm. Oland said becoming a Century Farm with multiple generations of family working and living on the property has always been a goal.

“My grandfather really wanted to live to 100 (years old) He made it to 97, but I got his farm to 100," Oland said.


Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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