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Ed Guse farm yields $277,000 for scholarships

Ed Guse farm yields $277,000 for scholarships

The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees Monday night heard about a bumper crop of $277,200 in scholarships SMC students will reap over the next three years from its farm.

In his President's report, Dr. David Mathews highlighted the Jan. 8 auction at Mathews Conference Center West on the Dowagiac campus which saw a $92,400 winning bid to benefit students across multiple disciplines in addition to agriculture.

"It's $92,400 a year for three years that will go directly into students' hands for scholarships," Mathews said. "This makes a huge difference for educational opportunities. Hundreds of students for decades to come will benefit from Ed's incredible donation."

Edward Guse bequeathed his farm southeast of Dowagiac in LaGrange Township to SMC when he died at 80 on Jan. 16, 2002.

"Ed Guse created a tremendous legacy for himself by helping students obtain their dreams, many of which are to seek careers in agriculture," Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon said.

"The goals of the foundation were to have a transparent offering to qualified regional bidders and to ultimately contract with a financially sound tenant that will be a good steward of this farm. Nick Totzke absolutely meets these standards," Jerdon said.

Berrien County's Totzke Farms won bidding rights to grow vegetable specialty crops on 210 tillable acres.

"We know the Guse family from way back - my grandpa (who started farming in Berrien County in 1926) knew them - because they were from Benton Harbor," said Nick Totzke, who attended the auction conducted by Phil Hahn of Hahn Auctioneers Inc. Nappanee, Ind., with his son, Scott.

Another son, Nicklas, is involved with Nick and Jann's Totzke Farms, as is daughter Janelle at the office in Stevensville.

"Ed Guse was a mentor to my dad," Janelle said. "As children we used to go over to Ed's house," where his peacocks "astounded" youngsters.

Ed Guse's farm "is a good fit because it literally borders some property we already farm" on Cherry Grove Road, Beeson Street and Dailey Road, she said.

In Berrien County, Totzke Farms, with 15 fulltime employees, farms around Baroda and Berrien Springs.

Ed Guse's farm is "good ground for specialty crops," Janelle said, including peas, green beans, seed corn, tomatoes and peppers.

Nick expects to plant peas and beans the first year.

"Next year our goal would be seed corn on that whole block," Nick said. "The third year we might even do some tomatoes. We farm a lot of land in Cass County. We've been in this county since 1989."

"We've instituted agricultural programming with Michigan State University here on our campus, we have a student ag club (Collegiate Farm Bureau), a new greenhouse with robots and beekeeping, which puts us where we want to be serving students interested in going into agriculture," Mathews said.