In Loving Memory: Anne Ione Kanten

Anne Ione Kanten
Aug. 20, 1927 – Dec. 7, 2020

Anne KathenAnne Ione Kanten, 93, of Crookston, Minn., formerly of Milan, Minn., died on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, at the Villa St. Vincent Nursing Home in Crookston from COVID-19. Anne spent much of her life shaping Minnesota agriculture, with the family farm, the land, and her faith all mobilizing her as a fierce advocate for families remaining on the land. 

She was born Anne Ione Knutson on Aug. 20, 1927, in Goldfield, Iowa, the daughter of the late Gunner and Gertrude (Thorsheim) Knutson, who emigrated from Norway in 1920. She graduated from high school in Goldfield and went on to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., earned a degree in education and began teaching in Clarkfield, Minn. It was there she met Charles “Chuck” Kanten, a young farmer from Milan, who had a strong sense of family history, intergenerational connectedness and belonging to a place. She married Chuck in 1952 in Eagle Grove, Iowa, and began her life on the family farm in Milan, which she and Chuck worked for 40-plus years. 

During the 1970s, Anne served on and chaired the Board of Global Mission and Inter-Church Cooperation of the American Lutheran Church (ALC—predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Among other work on the board, she advanced the cause of women missionaries, rewriting policies to ensure that they received equal pay for their professional work. In 1975, Anne and Chuck traveled to Africa on behalf of the ALC as lay mission observers and spent the next year sharing their experiences with the Southwest Minnesota District.

During the economic farm crisis, Anne and Chuck became more involved in the politics of agriculture and helped form the American Agricultural Movement (AAM), whose mission was to keep families on their farms during the financial farm crisis in the late ’70s and ’80s. Anne and Chuck spent much of their time between 1978 and 1980 working, speaking, and lobbying for AAM. This included a national tractorcade to Washington, D.C., in 1979 (their son Kent, accompanied by Chuck, drove the family tractor to Washington). Anne also worked in the AAM state office in Appleton, Wis., with many local farmers, including former Wisconsin Gov. Elmer Benson. She came to the attention of Rudy Perpich during his 1982 gubernatorial campaign and was appointed to serve as the state’s Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture. 

After her tenure as deputy commissioner, Anne continued to be a strong advocate for farmers and their families. Along with fellow farm activist Lou Anne Kling, she founded the Minnesota Farm Advocate Program. Through their tireless efforts, they provided technical assistance, information, and other help to family farmers trying to meet the legal and regulatory complexities of operating in troubled times. In 2000, she was named to the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s Women’s Hall of Fame. 

Anne held strong to her faith and brought an indomitable spirit to her lifelong work shaping agricultural policy to better the life of Minnesota farm families. With her deep commitment to peace, justice, and rural Minnesota, she was a role model for all women who work their farms and raise their families and was a passionate advocate for the people whose worlds, like her family’s, revolved around a rural way of life. 

In 2012, following retirement Chuck and Anne moved to Crookston, Minn. Sadly, Chuck passed away in July of 2014.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 15, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.