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University of Minnesota Extension

Carver County Farm Family

Gayle and Lois Degler

Gayle and Lois Degler's farm, now four generations strong, is in its 76th planting season in Chanhassen. Farming has evolved over the years and the Deglers' journey from a small dairy farm to an agritourism business is an adventure in adaptation and learning.

Gayle's mom and dad purchased the dairy farm in 1948. Milking cows was the primary income, and two horses provided the power to raise the crops that fed the mixed herd of Jersey and Holsteins. Gayle and Lois took over the farm in the late 1980s and as farm machinery grew, so did the farm as Gayle started renting more nearby land. By the time they sold the herd, they had the second-highest-producing mixed herd in the state.

Gayle and Lois' family also grew. They have 4 children: Beth, twins Todd and Wade, and Ellen. As their family grew, so did the town of Chanhassen. In 2001, when Gayle and Lois stopped milking dairy cows, they were the last dairy farm in the city. At that point, Gayle moved into local politics as a county commissioner. In 2007, Todd, Wade and Ellen came home from college and found local jobs that allowed them to still help with the crop farm work. They were still growing corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, and a few pumpkins for fun, but with fewer acres, they started to look for more profitable options. 

With the kids' help, the Deglers transitioned from growing alfalfa hay for dairy animals to a grass/alfalfa mix for horses. The horse hay market is strong in the southwest metro, and the Deglers' proximity and dairy background helped them respond and connect with customers.

The Deglers had discussed hayrides and a corn maze for a few years, and in 2018 they decided to give it a try. COVID-19 closures helped the new business model, as in the fall of 2020, many indoor activities were canceled and families were looking for things to do outdoors. Since then, the Deglers have grown beyond a hayride and corn maze to a corn pit, pumpkin trebuchet, giant slide and other small demonstrations. They worked extensively with the city to define agritourism and provide parameters for it.

Education has always been key to the family. Whether through 4-H, local church Bible studies, or professions, teaching others has always been a core value to the family. University of Minnesota Extension was critical in providing educational information to help define what they wanted in the agritourism business. The Deglers still keep education a foundation of what they do. Many people who step onto the Degler farm have never seen a tractor or corn crib up close. The Deglers make that experience fun and educational for visitors and their families.

Now the entire Degler family helps in some aspect on the farm again: Gayle and Lois, their four children, and 13 grandchildren all pitch in to help the family legacy continue.

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