Lenz' Family Forest
“I have a great idea,” Jerry Lentz, who in 1971 was a young math professor at St. John’s University, announced to his wife, Mary Lou. “Let’s sell our house here in St. Joseph and move to a quaint log home on some land near Avon, about 20 miles from St. Cloud.”
Jerry later said that an 1860s log home can lose its quaintness fairly quickly. Nonetheless, Jerry and Mary Lou lived there raising four daughters until they moved to their retirement home in St. Cloud in 2005.
The original piece of land was 11 acres to which another 70 acres was added a short time later. The land “wasn’t good enough to be marginal farmland,” Jerry said. It was, however, plenty good enough to grow trees.
Each spring was tree planting time for the Lentz family. “Eventually, we planted everything that was plantable,” Jerry said. “Our daughters loved the land but they lost most of their enthusiasm at tree planting time.”
“Survival rate for the seedlings was nearly 100% except for those two drought years in the late 1980s. At that time, we picked out a few of our new seedlings to care for with buckets of water carried from the house. All of those seedlings survived while all the rest died.”
In 2005, Jerry and Mary Lou sold the land to their daughter and son-in-law, Sue and Mike Guggenberger. Sue and Mike lived in the old log home for a year or so while they built a new house. Now the original home stands empty, awaiting a restoration plan.
Among his many retirement projects, Jerry is researching and writing the history of MFA from its founding in 1876 to the present. When finished, the work will document our claim that MFA is Minnesota’s oldest conservation-related organization.