Through scholarship, Haasnoot’s family supports sharing knowledge throughout the world
When Hitler’s forces invaded and occupied Holland in 1940, Jacob and Maria Haasnoot’s lives changed overnight. Because they lived on a small farm that supplied their household food, the family was forced to quarter three Nazi soldiers in their house. And although these soldiers added fear to their daily lives for five years, the experience did not diminish their core belief in the good of people and strengthened how they valued education for the common good. Decades later, those principles are at the heart of a new scholarship in Jacob's name.
Although the Haasnoots endured the war, they saw no future for their family in Europe and decided to immigrate to America. In 1949, they received an offer to work on a large dairy farm in Minnesota. So, with an agriculture diploma in hand and the prospect of a better life, Jacob and his family made the journey by ship and train in the dead of winter.
The Minnesota welcome was warmer than the weather. After a few months of farm work and boarding with several farm families, the Haasnoots met a Dutch doctor who introduced Jacob to Dr. L.M. Winters, head of Animal Husbandry at the University of Minnesota Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC; known then as the Rosemount Experiment Station). The meeting resulted in a job for Jacob. Although he knew very little English and had never operated a tractor or car, Jacob was quick to learn and his dedication and skill gained notice. This lead Albert Heine, superintendent of the RROC, to offer a more permanent post managing the swine and sheep department.
And this time, the job came with a big white, on-site house with boarders who worked at the center. “My parents were thrilled with the modern amenities of the farmhouse, such as running hot and cold water, electricity and a telephone,” said daughter Klaartje Stegmaier.
“We were fortunate on many levels that Jacob took that risk,” said CFANS Associate Dean Greg Cuomo. “Their story is a powerful example of being focused on positive outcomes, both for his family and for the impact he could make in his adopted home of Minnesota. They were a family who experienced many hardships, worked to find ways to help others and recognize the importance of educating future leaders in agriculture.”
For Klaartje and her brother Cornelius, the RROC became their backyard. During countless gatherings of University graduate students and researchers around the family’s kitchen table for “supper” or coffee and Dutch apple cake, talk centered on the challenges of raising leaner pigs and growing better grains.
Klaartje remembers many times when her father headed into the dark of night to care for farrowing pigs or to ensure the sheep flock was snug and safe during a blizzard. “He never complained about a thing and he considered it an honor to have been hired by the University,” she said.
Jacob died in 1997 having dedicated more than 25 years of fastidious record-keeping that supported University research in animal science.
“He was always proud to show the animals to his grandchildren and our Dutch relatives and friends who visited them. Our family treasured the connections made with students and faculty on the farm. My father was a man of principle and he valued education, so it was a natural next step to honor him by establishing a scholarship for today’s CFANS graduate students,” Klaartje said.
Klaartje; her husband David; their daughter Mary, associate professor at the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri; and daughter Ann, administrative officer at the Federal Aviation Administration - Flight Standards Service, felt that the Jacob Haasnoot Graduate Support Fund would be a lasting tribute to him.
Each year, the fund will provide travel support to two graduate students presenting their research at conferences prior to degree completion.
“It’s important for everyone to understand how we are all connected, and we need to work toward solutions to the challenges of feeding our population while stewarding our environment and supporting strong communities,” Klaartje said. “By making it possible for graduate students to become a part of national and international conversations, we can help make those connections."