WASECA — Ed Frederick, who has been one of the state’s greatest champions of agriculture education, has seen revolutionary changes since he first dug his hands in the soil of his family’s rural Madison Lake farm.
“I remember taking a wire across the field to hill-drop corn seeds so you could cross cultivate it both ways. Now the weed and pest protection is genetically built into the seed.”
Frederick, 82, has officially ended his 60-year career in ag education with the University of Minnesota, but he admits his daily routine hasn’t changed a whole lot.
He still has an office on the Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca, just across the street from the federal prison that was once the ag college Frederick helped build.
“I’m really doing nothing different in retirement. I was so darn fortunate to work in something I was so passionate about and loved so much. I’m still active in Farmamerica, the Waseca Chamber, and 4-H alumni and FFA alumni. There are plenty of things to do and it’s all fun.”
Family farm roots
Frederick grew up on a farm of nine kids, seven of them boys. The siblings would go on to cut a wide swath of entrepreneurial and professional success.
While Ed went to gain multiple degrees, his brothers, including Sal and Tom Sr., went on to build and run the Happy Chef restaurant chain. The family’s numbers have thinned over the years with the Korea War, a car crash and old age taking several siblings.
“I’m the old one in the family now.”
Frederick married Shirley in 1951 and moved to the University of Minnesota where he had a position in the dairy department while he was going to school.
And go to school he did, earning three degrees in six years, including a bachelor’s and master’s, topped off by a doctorate in dairy husbandry in 1957.