Farmer's work boots featured on Red Wing Shoe Co. Wall of Honor

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

RED WING, MN. - For decades, an old pair of well-worn work boots has been hanging in the pump house at the Tilderquist family farm. Despite the well worn leather, the Red Wing boots worn by Eric Tilderquist's grandfather, Conley, retain their place of honor.

This pair of Red Wings boots owned by Eric Tilderquist have seen better days. The Minnesota dairy farmer says he wears out a pair of boots each year.

Tilderquist has been following in his grandfather's footsteps since he was a boy and is a believer in the footwear so much that he entered a contest last year in which the Red Wing, MN-based company asked customers to share their stories of their favorite footwear.

The company received nearly 500 submissions from customers, many of them skilled laborers and farmers, telling them about their beloved work boots and a chance to hang that footwear on a permanent Wall of Honor. According to the company, the Wall of Honor pays tribute to those who have handled some of the toughest jobs such as delivering goods and services across ports and seaways as a U.S. Merchant Marine; installing the spire atop the Willis Tower in Chicago; and the cleanup at ground zero after the 9/11 attacks.

“We receive thousands of notes every year from workers sharing their Red Wing stories – and often times their boots – the Wall of Honor was created to honor these customers,” says Dave Schneider, chief marketing officer at Red Wing Shoe Company who conceived the Wall of Honor in a news release. “Our customers tell us their Red Wing boots are like tools in their tool belt. We are touched by the amount of love our brand receives, and it felt right to provide a space where their stories can live forever, paying respect to our customers’ boots and the remarkable work they have accomplished in their communities.”

Farmer Eric Tilderquest is among 32 customers that were chosen to highlight their stories along with their boots, on a permanent, physical Wall of Honor at its flagship store in Red Wing, MN. Due to the rough shape of Tilderquist's barn boots, the company agreed to let his grandfather, Conley Tilderquist's boots hang on the wall instead.

Tilderquist is the sixth generation of his family to farm the land just 10 miles west of the Wisconsin/Minnesota border near the small town of Welch, MN. The farm was homesteaded in 1856 by his great-great-grandfather Peter Olson Tilderquist who arrived from Sweden.

The forward-thinking family dubbed their spread Til Acres, and Tilderquist says his grandfather, Conley, who started out farming with horses, built the family's current milking parlor - one of the first in the area. The parlor is still milking the family's 155-head of Holsteins and the fruit trees his grandfather planted are still bearing fruit.

Like any farmer, comfortable and safe footwear is a must. Tilderquist estimates that he wears out a pair of boots each year.

"I lace up my Red Wings before sunrise and they usually don’t come off until 17 hours later," Tilderquist wrote. "I wear them during planting in spring, in the heat of summer, for harvest and all winter long."

In the years Tilderquist has been farming, his feet have been clad in his trusty boots as he's walked miles fixing broken fences, lugged newborn calves to safety and comforted sick animals in an effort to save their lives.

"I was wearing them in 1998 during the worst storm I’ve ever seen: straight-line winds and tornadoes. The boots kept me safe and sure-footed during the whole clean-up," he wrote.

And like many farmers, Tilderquist says he wears his boots until they're barely holding together...and then he orders another pair.

His family's penchant for the Minnesota manufactured footwear runs in the family, as his 10-year-old son, Max, —and seventh generation farmer-in-the-making—received his very first pair of Red Wings.

"Max has been wanting those boots for the past 3-4 years. We finally found a pair in his size on sale," Tilderquist said. "He’s so proud of them because they’re just like mine and he wants to be just like me. Getting these boots just didn't make his day…they made his week and month." 

armer Eric Tildequist's barn shoes hang (top right) on the Wall of Honor at the Red Wing Shoe Company. The wall shares not only the boots of skilled laborers but their stories as well.

In addition, a virtual experience can be found at where the honorees’ tales – surviving job-site accidents, repairing public services during dangerous storms or simply getting up each morning for decades knowing a trusted pair of boots would provide safety and comfort – are featured.

Submissions are open for the 2019 Wall of Honor at

Wall of Honor inductees tour the Red Wing Shoe Company plant in Red Wing, MN.