‘Everything was a mess’: A Minn. turkey farm is still picking up the pieces from a powerful storm


Then she corrected herself.

“Or it was our shop, I guess,” she said as she surveyed the pile of warped, bulldozed metal.

The strong storm that came through the area on Tuesday, June 13 ruined the shop, as well as damaged six other buildings at Oakdale Farm, a 190-acre turkey farm in Kensington. Three buildings, including the shop, were a total loss. The house, however, was untouched.

“We were down in the basement (during the storm),” said Vernal Nelson, Marlene’s husband of 63 years. “We got upstairs and it was completely still so I said, ‘I guess the storm is over.’ And then it hit. It didn’t last very long, but all I could see were branches and everything flying by. We didn’t have time to go back to the basement.”

After the storm passed, the Nelsons went outside to assess the damage on the farm, which has been in the family for six generations. They found that three barns, two shops, a machine shed and a garage had all been damaged, some irreparably.

The Nelsons then called two of their sons, Paul, who lives in Hoffman, and Dana, who lives in Kensington.

“I didn’t really think it would be that bad when I got out here, but I drove up and saw the shop and half the wall was folded to the side,” Paul said. “The whole thing was leaning.”

Some of the damaged barns housed the farm’s 9,000 turkeys, none of which were hurt or killed in the storm.

Prior to being bulldozed, the Nelson’s shop was bent and leaning heavily. The shop was a total loss. Submitted photo.

“When we got to the barn, we could see everything was a mess,” Dana said. “There was a fan hitting something and making a lot of racket. We went inside and the turkeys were piling on the other end. I went down and tried to chase them back but they were so scared.”

The Nelsons lost belongings that were inside the damaged buildings, including a car hoist. For the past few days, they’ve been working to empty the buildings and determine what is salvageable.

“With the shop, that was a huge job to get everything out of there that we could save,” Paul said. “That’s kind of what we’ve been concentrating on with all the buildings. There was just debris everywhere.”

In addition to wind damage, some items in the shop were covered in spilled oil.

“I had a used oil container and a bulk oil container for new oil in there,” Paul said. “It knocked both those over, so everything was covered in oil. It’s a mess.”

Runestone Construction, Inc. employees work to replace the roof on one of the damaged barns. Beth Leipholtz / FNS

Because of the time of year, it has been difficult for the Nelsons to find available contractors to fix the damage, although Runestone Construction, Inc. has been working on the buildings with the biggest concerns.

“They’re fixing the immediate problems,” Paul said. “There’s already a new roof on one of the barns. But some of the stuff is just going to have to wait.”

Erica Sawatzke, Vernal and Marlene’s granddaughter, recently moved to the area to start farming with the family.

“It really gave me a sick feeling that I’ll never forget,” she said. “All of that was followed by a little relief as family and friends quickly came to help in any way they could. My hope for the rebuilding process is truly that it goes smoothly and we are back on our feet in no time.”

The Nelsons say they hope their insurance will aid in repairing and replacing two of the buildings.

“Never in 50 years here have I seen a storm like that,” Marlene said.

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