Over multiple generations, the Mackenthun family has strongly supported the University of Minnesota and championed Minnesota agriculture.
When the Minnesota Gophers football team opens its season against the TCU Horned Frogs on Thursday night, the Mackenthuns will be honored as the Minnesota Corn Growers Farm Family of the Game.
Merlin Mackenthun and his wife, Jan, met at the University of Minnesota. Merlin graduated in 1972 with a double degree in Agriculture Engineering Technology and Agriculture Economics. Jan graduated 1974 with a degree in Family Social Science.
After graduating, Merlin decided to return home to farm with his father instead of accept an off-farm position at a prominent national agriculture company. Merlin became the fourth generation of Mackenthuns to farm near Brownton in McLeod County. The original farm was purchased around 1880.
“Farming is in my blood, so I proudly went back to the farm,” Merlin said.
For more than 35 years, Merlin grew corn and soybeans with his father and brother. Today, Merlin farms with his nephew Ryan (Merlin’s father died in 2011 and his brother, unexpectedly, in 2013). Jan was an early childhood coordinator in the Glencoe-Silver Lake school district for 25 years and currently serves on the McLeod County United Way board.
For the last three seasons, Gophers football has partnered with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association to honor a Farm Family of the Game during each home game at TCF Bank Stadium. Farm families are chosen for their contributions to Minnesota agriculture and their efforts to protect land, water and soil resources on their farms.
Merlin practices a conservation tillage technique that leaves residue on his corn field to help prevent soil erosion. He also uses technology like GPS mapping and auto-steer to practice precision agriculture, which helps farmers use significantly less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.
“Protecting our natural resources is a big part of what we do,” Merlin said.
In addition to their farming and conservation efforts, the Mackenthuns will be recognized for their strong heritage at the University of Minnesota.
Merlin and Jan’s daughter, Amanda, graduated from the U of M’s Carlson School of Management with a triple major and currently works in Switzerland for Cargill (she was also a finalist for homecoming queen in 2002). Their son, Scott, graduated from the U of M’s College of Natural Resources and is the assistant manager for a DNR fish hatchery in Waterville. Both Amanda and Scott’s spouses also earned degrees from the U of M.
Finally, Jan’s father, Gordon Swanson, was a U of M professor of Agriculture Education for more than 40 years. He’s a member of the FFA Hall of Fame and helped start an agricultural school in post-Apartheid South Africa.
“My friends would give me a hard time, saying I should be out there as the Farm Family of the Game,” Melin said. “It’s an honor for my family and I to get this opportunity.”
Kickoff for the Gophers vs. TCU season-opener is set for 8 p.m. on Thursday night at TCF Bank Stadium. Look for the Mackenthuns — Merlin, Jan, Scott, Scott’s wife, Jackie, and their three-year-old daughter Quinn — to be honored on the field and on the big screen during a special ceremony during the game.