Henry Peterson was born October 23, 1904, in Moorhead, Minnesota. He was the third son of Charles and Louise Peterson. Henry was born the same year that his father purchased his first 20 acre in what is now north Moorhead. Henry grew up on this farm raised by his father; his mother died when he was three years old.
By the early 1930s, the Charles Peterson Truck Farm had become one of the largest truck farms in the area. Hank and his brothers, Bob and Ed, were established as partners in the truck farm. By this time, the Petersons had gained a reputation as onion producers.
Hank’s long association with North Dakota State University began when he enrolled in agricultural short courses. He met leading scientists who influenced him and contributed to the development of his interest in plant breeding. Hank worked closely with Dr. Yeager in the 1930s in developing new varieties of vegetables, some of which were still being grown in the 1970s.
Hank married Corinne Foley on March 31, 1932. Corinne was originally from De Lamere, North Dakota. They had two daughters, Karol Kay and Sheri. Karol (Kiki) married Neil Rood in 1953; they had three children. Sheri married Thomas Watt, a government food inspector, and they also had three children.
Hank’s half century experience in managing farm operations earned him a reputation throughout the Red River Valley as a leading agricultural innovator and, at one time, the largest producer of vegetables in Minnesota. The Petersons bought more land and increased their holdings to 2120 acres. The Petersons were continually trying new ideas, such as irrigation, using beet tops for feed, and planting Victory Gardens in World War II.
With crops like onions, potatoes, and sugar beets, labor played a very important part on the truck farm. The Petersons had employed men year round as well as seasonal workers. During World War II, as a result of the labor shortage, 150 German prisoners of war (POWs) were sent to Moorhead from a camp in Iowa to work from June through November. The prisoners worked on local farms in 1943 and 1944. These prisoners lived in a camp east of Moorhead and often they would walk to the farm by themselves. In the 1950s, machinery was developed to mechanize the harvest of sugar beets, onions, and potatoes, and it became easier to secure a good supply of labor. In 1949, the Petersons dissolved their partnership. Hank continued to experiment with varieties and methods until his semi-retirement in 1970.
Hank was also active with humanitarian concerns and community services. He founded an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter in Fargo-Moorhead in the mid 1940s. He served on the Moorhead City Council twelve years, served as both vice-president and director of American Bank and Trust Company in Moorhead, and as director of American Bancorporation. He also served as president of the Moorhead Country Club, the Rotary Club, and the Northwest Farm Managers Association.
The records of the Charles and Henry Peterson Truck Farm include the papers of Henry Peterson. These records and papers are arranged by topic: civic, farm operations, property related investments, real estate and income tax records, and correspondence from and photographs of German prisoners of war during World War II. Included in the agricultural records are many photographs of crops, manual laborers, and machinery. This collection also contains the report on POW employment in Minnesota during World War II.