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Preserving the past: Volunteers restore, rebuild buildings on historic Probstfield farm

MOORHEAD - Howard Anderson has been volunteering to help restore and rebuild old buildings at Probstfield Farm north of Moorhead for the past nine years.

Howard Anderson works on some finishing touches on a replica machine shed at Prostfield Farm near Moorhead. Anderson spear-headed volunteer efforts to rebuild the structure. Cody Rogness/The Forum
Howard Anderson works on some finishing touches on a replica machine shed at Prostfield Farm near Moorhead. Anderson spear-headed volunteer efforts to rebuild the structure. Cody Rogness/The Forum
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MOORHEAD - Howard Anderson has been volunteering to help restore and rebuild old buildings at Probstfield Farm north of Moorhead for the past nine years.

He collects old tractors and has a 1946 Dodge farm truck. He asked to keep some of the vehicles on the farm in exchange for making repairs.

"That was the bait," he said. "The next year we restored a couple of small buildings and in 2008 I agreed to take the lead on the barn. We put a new roof on it and new windows. That was a huge project."

Anderson taught middle school math for Moorhead Area Public Schools for 30 years. He also spent 10 years living and teaching abroad. During his summers, Anderson did construction work.

He said he sees the value in preserving the Probstfield Farm, the first farm in Clay County, established in the late 1860s.

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"I grew up on a farm and have so many good memories of my boyhood and driving these tractors on the farm," Anderson said.

This past summer he led a group of volunteers to build a replica of a machine shed on the farm. The original building collapsed and it was too close to the Red River, so the foundation started to slip into the river bank, Anderson said.

The estimated cost to rebuild the facility was $40,000. Instead, volunteers donated their time and money, and local businesses donated supplies. The volunteers also repurposed some materials from the old shed and a similar building near Sabin.

"I had a few rough drawings, but basically the plans were in my head," Anderson said.

Repurposing used material made the project more of a challenge because pieces didn't always fit together and the repurposed siding had to be scraped and brushed, Anderson said.

"Using the materials that we used, almost everything took two or three times what it should have taken," he said. "It was very labor intensive, but kind of fun."

Volunteers started building the rafters in May and the walls in June. Anderson is now putting the final touches on the project.

"Whatever we do in life, I think we have to have a vision," he said. "I could see this building complete and with each major step along the way, when we got the concrete done, when we finished building all the rafters, when the framing was done, when the shingling was done, each major step was a step closer to that goal that I could envision."

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Jay Leitch, a former member of the Probstfield Farm Foundation board of trustees, said Anderson and the other volunteers have done a terrific job replicating the former building.

"He's kind of a perfectionist," Leitch said. "He was a math teacher, so he's got to have everything fit just right."

As the first homestead in Clay County, Leitch said it's important to preserve its past.

"The buildings are the most important feature there and are a valuable community asset to remind us of the way things were," he said. "It wouldn't get done if it weren't for the Howards."

The rebuilt shed will be used to house some of the antique tractors on the farm.

There are a few events held throughout the year at the farm. Anderson said the goal is to make it a historic attraction.

Online: probstfieldfarm.org

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Related Topics: MOORHEADAGRICULTURE
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