Kay Kottas, Witt’s great-great granddaughter owns the Witt’s End Homestead farm today and operates it with the help of her husband, Joe, and several employees. The Aksarben Foundation and the Saline County Fair board are scheduled to honor Kottas and Witt’s other descendants with a 2015 Heritage Farm Award, which recognizes farms that have remained in the same family for 150 years. The ceremony is planned for 8:30 p.m. July 15 at Tuxedo Park in Crete. The family will receive a gatepost marker noting the designation.
“Many of Witt’s descendants have devoted years of work to the farm,” Kottas said. “The open house will be a celebration of that hard work, and a chance to look forward to seeing this precious history preserved.”
Nebraska carpenter Troy Schon, who specializes in restoring timber buildings, will discuss his plan to bring the house back to its original state. Kottas plans to unveil a crowd-funding website to help raise funds for the project.
The fakwerkbau style of architecture was popular in northern Germany in the 1800s. Trees were scarce, and buildings like this required fewer trees than the traditional log cabins. Witt also used adobe brick to fill the gaps. He used wooden pegs instead of nails.
With three bedrooms and a kitchen downstairs and one room upstairs, the family lived in the home until the 1920s. The house has been used for storage for decades.
Kottas, a botanist and owner of Prairie Legacy, Inc., an environmental consulting company grows more than 100 different native plants, trees and shrubs . She collects the seeds of native plants from across the state and grows them in a greenhouse, then plants them in production plots on the farm. She sells wholesale and retail seed and plants for landscaping and restoration projects across the state.
“It is nearly impossible for a modern family to make a living on a small farm such as this with traditional agriculture,” Kottas said. “It is our mission to preserve this small farm with non-traditional crops and in so doing preserve the natural legacy of the land that made farming possible.”