The 2021 Minnesota Farm Family Families of the Year will be recognized on August 5 at Farmfest. Read more about this event in Extension News.
Farm Family recognition program
The University of Minnesota Farm Family Recognition Program honors farm families from throughout Minnesota for their significant contributions to the agriculture industry and their local communities.
The Farm Family Recognition Program has honored Minnesota farmers since 1979. It is coordinated by University of Minnesota Extension, the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine.
- University of Minnesota Extension
- College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
- College of Veterinary Medicine
- Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station
For more information
Mary Jo Fox
Phone: 320-235-0726 ext. 2001
2021 Farm Families of the Year
Godward Wild Rice Farms
In 1950, Tom Godward’s father and uncle experimented growing wild rice in a one-acre field. Since then, Tom has developed the farm into the largest wild rice farm in Aitkin County. Tom and his wife, Kim, have two sons, Brandon and Nick, who represent the 4th generation of the family to farm.
The Godwards grow soybeans in addition to their wild rice operation.
Tom and Kim are the owner/operators of the farm and Brandon and Nick help run it. The Godwards’ daughter, Brittany, is an elementary school teacher.
Tom has served on the board of directors of the Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council for more than 30 years. Nick is a recent graduate of the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) program and participated in the CHS New Leaders program. Brandon is a graduate of the University of North Dakota with a degree in business.
Chuck and Donna Remick
The Remick farm began in 1935 when Donna’s grandparents, Michael Demitry and Lena Pelecacz-Wasnick, purchased 80 acres of land. Potatoes were grown in what is currently wetlands in the back of the property. The section that is now an orchard and vineyard produced hay for the farm animals.
The Remicks’ current farm is owned and operated by Chuck and Donna Remick, their son, Bryce, and three grandchildren. They have more than five acres planted with apple, cherry, and plum trees. The apple orchard contains trail walks for viewing wildlife and rare plants. In addition, the family grows two acres of Minnesota-hardy grapes along with fruits and vegetables that include blueberries, raspberries and asparagus. All the grapes grown on the farm are used in wine, jams, jellies, juice, and for snacking.
The Remicks’ vineyard is Heritage Farm. Each row of grapes has a bottle of wine created with a label honoring a different family member. The purpose of the Heritage farm is to honor the past, present and future. The Remicks learned that Lena immigrated from Ukraine with her children and what is thought to be Concord grape seeds sewn into the hem of her apron.
The Remicks believe in good land stewardship, use an integrated pest management system and closely follow protocols that are environmentally responsible and promote sustainable farming. The family grows many University of Minnesota-developed fruits on their farm and has an interest in the university’s research on organic farming in colder climates. The Remicks participate in the Minnesota Grown program and are members of the Minnesota Apple Growers Association.
The Remicks’ farm is home to a special “wishing tree” where donations are used to raise funds for kids in need of special medical help.
Tim and Kristine Hendrickson
Tim and Kristine bought their first group of beef cows in 2007. The Hendrickson family now calve out about 180 cows, with calving starting in mid-April.
The family’s pastures are all rotationally grazed. The Hendricksons put most of the cows’ manure out in the pastures and reseed to increase productivity. They no-till their crops as much as they can.
The Hendricksons background the calves of their 180-cow herd. They make hay and raise a variety of forages on approximately 600 acres with about 400 acres in pasture. They enjoy checking on and rotating the cows as a family.
Tim oversees day-to-day operations, which include cow care, feed and planting decisions. Kristine handles the bookkeeping and takes care of the fencing and rotating the cows when her family is busy making hay.
Tim and Kristine’s children are all involved in the operation. Kate is the parts-runner and likes to check on the cows. Gabe helps with feeding along with cutting and raking hay. Jada and Rena are gate watchers, twine cutters and help rotate the cows.
Tim and Kristine are members of the Minnesota Farmers Union and are licensed insurance agents for Farmers Union Insurance. Kate is a reporter for her school’s FFA.
Molnar Gardens began in 1981. The family has farmed at the current location since 1984. Jeff and Jacki Molnar have 90 acres with eight acres of vegetable gardens and 60 acres of pasture that is home to a sheep flock of 40-80 ewes with lambs.
From 1981 until 2010, the family raised chickens, ducks, pheasants and turkeys. They also raised milking goats. Currently, the Molnars raise over 25 different kinds of vegetables including many different varieties of each. They’ve used no synthetic weed killers or fertilizers on their land. The Molnars are careful to manage their land as a renewable resource of earth, water and vegetation.
The family’s woodlot is selectively cut for firewood and milled boards used in the family’s home for kitchen cabinets and other on-site building projects.
The Molnars have six grown children who come back to the farm to help when needed. They have four daughters, Danielle, Anastasia, Amy, and Johanna and two sons, Nathan and Luke.
Jeff and Jacki were 4-H leaders when their kids were younger. Jeff was Beltrami County Fair Dairy Goat Barn supervisor and has given many sheep shearing demonstrations at the fair. Jeff helped launch three area farmers markets with hundreds of other farm families over more than three decades. He now serves as vice chair of Bemidji’s Natural Choice Farmers Market.
The Emslander farm was purchased in 1971 by Dave and Rosie Emslander. They began their dream of farming by raising a couple of sows and selling feeder pigs at market until 1973 when the couple decided to milk a few cows. They started with 10 and slowly increased their herd to 30 cows. In 1980, the Emslanders doubled their barn size and began milking 60 cows.
Dave and Rosie had nine children. All the kids helped on the farm when they were young. The Emslanders sold their milk cows when their youngest child, David, left to work construction in 2000. Dave and Rosie still raised some steers, beef cows and row crops.
David missed the way farm life brings family together so he and his wife, Lisa, decided farming would be a good way to raise their family and purchased the farm in 2014. David and Lisa started out by buying bottle calves and raising them to finish. Currently, the couple buys steers at 400 pounds and finishes them. David and Lisa have three children: Shayla, Ethan and Megan. Shayla helps full time on the farm and loves farming; she hopes to become a big part of the future of the farm that her grandparents started. Ethan helps with a lot of the projects on the farm and is leaning toward working in the construction industry. The Emslanders’ youngest daughter, Megan, helps with a variety of chores including driving the bobcat and bedding the cattle. Megan also loves farming.
Along with some outside, part-time help, the Emslanders run the farm together. The family teams up with Extension and their local NRCS to improve water quality and soil conservation by experimenting with different management practices and cover crops.
Gerald and Marilee Haukos
Jerry and Marilee live on the farm that was purchased by Jerry’s parents, Gale and Ann, in 1951. The couple married in 1972 and two years later moved to the farm. Jerry has been part of the farm his entire life. Marilee has been helping with more of the work over the past few years since her retirement from the Ortonville Hospital in 2015.
Jerry and Marilee raise 800 acres of corn, soybeans and occasionally wheat in rotation. Currently, the couple is in the process of winding down and rent out about two-thirds of their land. The Haukoses still find plenty to do and enjoy having their children and grandchildren come to the farm to visit.
Jerry and Marilee have four children: Stephanie, Bryan, Kevin, and Amy. Stephanie is an LPN/Neighbor Lead/HIM for a nursing home in Ortonville. She visits the farm with her special friend, Garret Novy. Bryan and his wife, Rhonda, have a son, Nathan. Bryan is a manufacturing supervisor for a hydraulics company. Kevin is a lead field technician for a technology company and Amy is a certified surgical technician, who along with her husband, Jeff Athey, has two sons, Hunter and Carter.
Jerry and Marilee received the 2001 Outstanding Conservationist Award from the Big Stone County Soil and Water Conservation District. Marilee is secretary of the Ortonville Kiwanis and serves on the United Appeal Committee. She is a member of the Board of Evangelism for First English Church, co-founder of a retirement group of Ortonville Hospital employees and a member of Eden Valley Homemakers.
The Hislop family has been residing at the same farm in Beauford Township since November 6, 1866. The family came to America from Scotland in the 1840s and settled in Janesville, Wis., for a number of years before arriving at their new homestead in Beauford, Minn. The first generation of the family to farm the land in southern Minnesota was Robert Hislop. He subsequently was the first person to be buried in Beauford Oak Hill Cemetery. Five generations of the family now are laid to rest there.
Today, the Hislops grow corn and soybeans and custom finish hogs. The family also owns a trucking company with four full-time employees.
The farm is managed by Scott and Michelle Hislop and their son, Adam and his wife, Lauren. Adam and Lauren have two children, Boden (4) and Melanie (5 months). Boden is generation number eight so he is busy following his dad around the farm, learning the ropes and hoping to fill his shoes someday.
Adam is a board member of the Blue Earth County Corn and Soybean Growers Association and a trustee at the family’s church. Lauren is employed at Central Farm Service, an ag cooperative based in southern Minnesota, and is involved with the Blue Earth County 4-H Purple Ribbon Club.
Hacker’s Tree Farm Nursery and Greenhouse
Dan and Lynn Hacker
Dan and Lynn were married in 1974. Dan had a 300-head hog operation and Lynn was a teacher. Their plan was to raise their children on a farm while growing crops and raising hogs. The tough years of the 1980s made the couple realize that owning more land wasn’t an option so they decided to “think outside the box.”
The Hackers lost their 14-month-old son, Tom, in 1981, which altered Dan and Lynn’s view of what was important in life. Lynn’s father told them they needed to stay busy after Tom died and brought 200 Christmas trees from his Wisconsin farm for Dan and Lynn to sell. That was the beginning of Hacker’s Tree Farm.
The Hackers still raise pigs on the farm and for the past 25 years Dan raised show pigs. The family also grows corn and soybeans. The Hackers added manufacturing of 92 different types of wreaths and garland and ship their products to 15 states.
In 1985, the family added the greenhouse side of the business. Their plants are sold wholesale and retail. Bedding plants are sold at the farm in rural Sleepy Eye from 30,000 square feet of greenhouses and in New Ulm at Hacker’s Garden Center.
Dan and Lynn’s daughter, Heather, owns A2Zinnia Floral in New Ulm and helps with the management of the greenhouses along with her husband, Spencer Hammer, who farms in South Dakota. Heather and Spencer have two children, Olivia and Violet.
Dan and Lynn have two sons who own Hacker’s Construction and Wausau Homes in Duluth. Their son Matthew and his wife, Hailie, have four kids, Emily, Jackson, Wyatt and Caleb. The Hackers’ son Nicholas and his wife, Joleen, have three children, Callan, Wesley and Ethan.
The Hackers are members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sleepy Eye, the Brown County Pork Producers Association and the Minnesota Christmas Tree Growers Association. Lynn has been a Brown County Master Gardener since 1992.
Dan was called home to heaven in 2018 after a 12-year battle with ALS. He taught the family the importance of faith, family and farming.
A dairy was started over 100 years ago on the Konu farm. Gerry Konu milked 25 cows after coming out of the military and has spent his whole life on the farm. Gerry’s nephew, Mark, joined the dairy operation in 1980 and the family built a new parlor and free stall barn. The Konus calved year-round but tried to have most of the calves in April and May.
In 2019, the cows were sold, and the dairy operation ended. Mark now runs 600 acres of hay ground and sells hay to area livestock farms. The land produces about 1,500 round bales a year. He also works in the spring and fall for friends on their farm in New Richmond. Mark went to school for mechanics while working on his family’s dairy operation.
Mark has four grown children who used to be involved on the farm when they were growing up. Amie is a nurse with three children of her own; Andrea works in hospital administration and has one child with another on the way. Maria is working on her nursing license; she has two children. Son Bobbie, the youngest , has four children and lives in Texas.
The Konus have hosted pre-med and pharmacy students from the University of Minnesota-Duluth to witness firsthand the dangers of farming. When he was milking cows, Mark served on the board of the local chapter of the MN Dairy Herd Improvement Association.
Roger and Richard Hoen
Hollandale Farms has been in the Hoen family for over a century. Leonard Hoen Sr. built a 44-cow tie stall barn in 1957 and added a 34-cow tie stall addition in 1971. In 1977, Leonard, Roger and Richard formed a partnership and named it Hollandale Farms. Leonard passed away three years later, and Roger and Richard continued the partnership.
Roger and Richard currently run 750 acres. They grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and oats. Much of what is grown is fed to their livestock. The Hoens are currently phasing out their 98-cow milking herd and will continue to raise about 100 head of young stock and replacement heifers.
Roger and his wife, Carol, have seven children: Jim, Bill, Greg, Tony, Julie, Kellie and Kari. Richard and his wife, Kim, have two children, Kyle and Kelsey. All the kids pitched in to help with farm work when they were young. The boys continue to help with milking, repairs and field work when needed. With the help of family, friends and neighbors over the past few years, the Hoens have been able to keep the family farm operating.
Roger is active on the cemetery board at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Cologne. Roger and Carol volunteer at church fundraisers and events. Rich has volunteered with the Carver County Holstein Board, Bongards Creamery Board and the county’s Dairy Day Committee. He’s also coached the local 4-H dairy judging team. Hollandale Farms is a longtime supporter of 4-H and FFA, where all the Hoen children were participants.
Torkelson Cattle Company
Marlin and Kathy Torkelson’s farm has been in the family for 75 years. Marlin’s parents, Hjalmer and Leona, purchased the homestead of 120 acres in 1946. The following year they built a dairy barn and started milking cows. Marlin began milking in 1970 and at his peak was milking 60 cows after additions were made to the original barn. For several years in the 1970s Marlin also raised Herefords.
In 1979, Marlin and Kathy purchased the farm. Marlin milked until 1992 when his knees began to bother him from all the years of milking. It was then the Toreklsons traded their dairy cows for beef heifers. The beef operation began with 50 black Angus heifers. The farm has grown to 1,400 acres with 11 land transactions and 1,200 rented acres. Marlin and Kathy’s son, Eric, started buying cows at age 13 and now has a herd of his own. In 2014, Torkelson Cattle Company LLC was born.
Marlin and Eric take care of 350 cows and background the calves. They grow corn, oats and hay. Kathy helps when time allows driving tractors, working with the cattle, bringing food to the fields, running for parts and other tasks. Kathy also works full time at Pine River Dental Arts.
Marlin continues to serve on the Wilson Township Board as a supervisor, a position he’s held for over 35 years. He served on the Crow Wing/Cass County FSA committee and is a past board member of the Land O’ Lakes board. Kathy is a member of the Pine River Garden Club and serves as secretary/meeting coordinator. The Torkelsons are members of the Baptist Church in Pequot Lakes.
Chad and Missy Ochsendorf
Chad’s great-grandfather purchased the farm in 1915 from one of his aunts. Over the years, the family has raised corn and soybeans along with cattle, farrow-to-finish hogs and currently the family runs a registered Angus herd.
The Ochsendorfs’ farm is 160 acres of pasture and hay ground with 30 head of registered Angus cows. The family sells bulls and bred heifers and also does custom baling.
Chad and Missy have four children: Kaileigh, Kami, Alise and Jacob.
The Ochsendorfs have been a 4-H family for more than 18 years. Chad and Missy grew up in 4-H as well. Their daughters participated in FFA. Missy has served on board of the Montevideo Area Youth Center and been a part of the Chippewa Valley Youth Club for about 12 years. The Ochsendorfs are members of Hope Reform Church where Missy helps lead the youth group and helps with children’s church. They were married at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, where Missy taught for 12 years.
Amador Hill Farm and Orchard, A Program of the Women’s Environmental Institute
In 2006, two years after the Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI) was started, organizers of the non-profit began stewarding 25 acres of farmland on Amador Hill in Amador Township in eastern Minnesota. The effort began as part of the Institute’s mission to advance environmental justice through farming. Amador Hill Farm and Orchard is an organically certified four-season operation that started as a small CSA but has since grown to a large CSA network. The farm is also used for demonstration and education purposes, advancing organic practices including composting, cover-cropping, reduced tillage and improved soil health.
Amador Farm and Orchard produces well over 150 varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruits, all distributed via a CSA, the Mill City Farmers Market, Veggie Rx, the North Circle Online Farmers Market, and other venues. In addition to growing organic produce, the farm supports diverse cultural heritage projects and educational opportunities as well as being a welcoming place for volunteers and community visitors.
Jacquelyn Zita is the farm manager and Kayla Pridmore is assistant farm manager. The farm crew is made up of Lauren Meister, Sarah Hunt, Rachel de Sobrino, Christina Zettel, Jeff Vitali, Hilary Sandall, and others, including many volunteers.
WEI’s farmer education program reaches over 300 farmers each year through more than 32 online classes and the annual Will Allen Farmer Training weekend. WEI also has active urban farming projects in the East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis that address hunger, racial disparities, poverty and environmental justice.
This year’s theme for WEI’s Will Allen Farmer Training is ‘100 Days of Food: Grow, Harvest and Preserve,' designed to inspire growers and consumers to store 100 days of food to survive the coming challenges of climate crisis, global instability and food scarcity.
Mark is the fourth generation of his family to farm in northwest Minnesota. His great grandfather, Ole Gilbertson, purchased the farm from the railroad in the 1880s. Ole started with 160 acres of crops and livestock. In the 1980s, the farm transitioned to crop production. The current operation also includes a portion of Brendy’s family’s farm. That farm was established in the 1880s by her great grandfather, Christen O. (Johnson) Dosland.
Mark and Brendy currently farm 3,000 acres of corn, wheat, and soybeans in rotation. They farm with their sons, Bryce and Carson. The farm spans across northern Clay and southern Norman counties.
Mark and Brendy own and operate their family farm. Brendy also works as a nurse at the Fargo Veterans Administration. Their daughter, Erica, is a social worker for a hospice agency in the Twin Cities. Bryce is a graduate of North Dakota State College of Science and works as a diesel mechanic at Norman County Implement. He farms part-time. Bryce and his wife, Tanisha, live in Ada. Carson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Crookston in agronomy and he farms full time.
Mark and Brendy are members of Bethesda Lutheran Church in Moorhead. Mark is a member of the Perley Community Co-op, a director for the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council, and a past board member of the Northern Crops Institute. The family members are proud supporters of the UMN-Crookston Agronomy Club.
Keith and Kelli Skersick both came from farming families. Keith grew up on a dairy farm and Kelli’s family raised beef cattle, hogs, and hay. In 1995, the couple purchased 250 acres of land in Clearwater County. Initially they sold the hay and rented out the pasture. A couple of years later, the Skersicks purchased 25 Hereford cows from a retiring neighbor.
Over the years, cattle numbers increased for Keith and Kelli. They now own 175 Angus-cross cows and their acreage has increased to 600 as they purchased more land. They also rent additional land for both summer pasturing and hay production. The family grows some corn for silage.
Keith and Kelli have four grown children, Kayla, Katie, Kristopher and Kari. Kristopher helps a great deal with fieldwork, calving, and sorting cows. Their daughters all have been willing to help when needed.
The Skersicks are actively involved in their church, Trinity Lutheran at Lake George.
Jonathan and Brenda Adrian
As a third-generation farmer, Jonathan Adrian continues a farm legacy his grandparents began decades ago. Jon’s maternal grandfather started raising turkeys on range in the 1930s. After his graduation from the U of M in 1987, Jon farmed with his father until 2017.
Jon Adrian has farmed for 34 years. During those years Jon has raised turkeys for heavy tom production. He grows corn, soybeans and seed beans. Throughout the years, Jon has implemented advances in technology to dramatically increase production for the farm.
The Adrian children worked on the farm growing up and some still do. Jonathan and Brenda’s oldest son, Scott, who was born with spina bifida, helps prepare field meals and turkey loader lunches. He is also employed at Enterprise North and Maynards Foods. Their daughter Melanie is office manager of Adrian Farms and as a trained veterinary technician, assists with poult health. Her husband, Daniel, handles maintenance and runs equipment, providing a keen understanding of new technologies. The Adrians’ youngest son, Bryce, a sophomore at SDSU, operates equipment, assists with crop work and maintenance while home on breaks.
Another Adrian daughter, Rachelle and her Air Force husband Travis, reside in Arizona where Rachelle is a music therapist and piano teacher.
Brenda Adrian works as a substitute teacher, volunteering as a Sunday School teacher and Ride-By-Faith mentor.
Jonathan volunteers on the building committee of Mountain Lake Christian School, serves as a church trustee and on the Odell Windfarm grant committee. He is a member of the Minnesota Corn and Soybean Growers Associations and the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.
Louis and Megan Schlegel
The Schlegel family farm was originally built by Megan’s great-grandparents, Phillip and Annie Fleischhacker, with the first building, a grainery, going up in 1908.
Phillip and Annie passed the farm to their son, Leo, who ran a dairy with his wife, Donna, and their seven children. Their oldest son, Jeff, took over the farm from his parents and milked cows for the next decade. Jeff sold the cows and continued farming, raising crops, cattle and hogs. Jeff and his wife, Cindy, instilled in their children, Matt and Megan, a deep love of agriculture.
About five years ago, Megan, along with her husband, Louie, and their children, moved back to the farm to live her dream and fix up the home originally built by her great-grandparents. Megan and Louie have six children, Brandon, Stephanie, Benjamin, Louis, Waylon and Arthur. The family is in the process of buying the farm from Megan’s parents.
The Schlegels currently operate a hatchery which is National Poultry Improvement Plan certified and annually inspected by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Megan is the primary operator; she hatches and sells the chicks locally and across the country. The hatchery operates eight months of the year.
Stephanie, Louis, Ben and Waylon raise bottle calves to feeder size and market them to local finishers. Louie and Megan, along with Megan’s brother, Matt, care for the family’s herd of Hereford cattle.
Megan is an authorized poultry testing agent for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. She was an avid member of FFA. Megan also organizes a local farmers market each fall and serves as an election judge. She works part-time as an office administrator at Barrett Ag Service.
Rotty Farms is a fourth-generation family farm that began with Alphonse and Matilda Rotty in 1934. The couple farmed until 1962. Their son, Robert (Bob), worked the farm with his parents raising corn, oats, hay, cattle, chickens and pigs. Bob and his wife, Kathleen, took over the farm in 1963 and farmed together until 2005. They raised nine children on the farm. Two of their children, sons Tom and Gary, started farming with their parents in the 1980s and ’90s.
Tom and Gary, along with their spouses, Ann and Amy, formed Rotty Farms LLC in 2006. Today the families raise 660 acres of corn, soybeans, sweet corn, peas, hay and raise beef. Bob is retired but still helps with the operation. Gary and Amy’s son, Jacob, works on the farm as well as helping with chores and fieldwork.
The Rotty family has been very involved in their community for a long time. Alphonse was a Nininger town supervisor from 1958 until 1962. Bob has served as township supervisor since 1981 and previously served on the township planning commission.
Gary and Amy’s children, Jacob, Ruby, Julia and Grace, have all been involved in 4-H. Jacob restored a 1936 Farmall F-20 that he took to the county and state fair in 2019. Ruby, Julia and Grace have taken photography, food and craft projects to the Dakota County fair. Gary also works off the farm as an engineering manager and currently serves on the Nininger Township Planning Commission. Amy is a nurse and has volunteered as a 4-H club leader.
Tom and Ann’s children Chris and Robert have both worked on farms through their high school years and pursued off-the-farm careers after college. Chris is married to Jenna and they have two children, Walter and Clare. Ann works at a local trucking company and volunteers at the local hospital auxiliary. Tom also works at the local implement dealer and is a seed salesman for local farmers.
Rod and Vicki Jorgenson
Harry and Blanche Jorgenson began farming between Kasson and Mantorville in southeast Minnesota before they purchased the current home farm between Kasson and Byron in 1933. Rod’s parents, Lester and Elaine, farmed with Harry and expanded the operation which included crops and feeding out hogs and cattle. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Rod returned home to farm with his parents. Rod and Vicki were married in 2007 and moved to the farm four years later. Lester passed away in 2009.
Today, the Jorgensons grow corn and soybeans. Rod manages the farm and takes care of the day-to-day operations. Vicki helps wherever she is needed, including running the dryer in the fall and overseeing the rock-picking crew in the spring. Vicki and Elaine prepare meals and help shuttle equipment operators to the fields.
Rod, Vicki and Elaine are active members of Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester. In the past, Rod and Vicki took part in church lead missions to work at a school and orphanage in Kenya.
Rod is current chair of the Al-Corn ethanol plant board and serves on the Farm Service Agency County Committee.
Warren and Norma Engelbrecht’s family farm started as a dairy operation in 1902. Currently, the family is growing crops and humanely raised, antibiotic-free hogs for Niman Ranch. Conservation and sustainability are the focus of the family operation to ensure the future for the next generation--none of which would be possible without the help and encouragement of family, friends, and supportive neighbors.
Warren and his oldest son, Darren, are the full-time farm operators, but the entire family helps wherever they are needed. Warren and Norma’s extended family all live within a mile of each other. The couple’s grandchildren are enrolled in 4-H which has brought cattle, goats, rabbits, chickens, and turkeys to the farm, along with a lot of learning and entertainment.
Warren and Norma have four children. Darren is married to Tara and they have four children, Hunter, Ethan, Gavin and Seth. Their daughter, Karen, is married to Steve Bundermann and has three children: Alex, Kodi and Rylee. Warren and Norma’s daughter Lisa and her husband, Mike Lennes, have three children: Reagan, Hayden and Brynley and the Engelbrechts’ son Ryan has three children with his wife, Courtney: Jackson, Nathan and Bennett.
The Engelbrechts have been members of the Vikings Sportsmen for many years. They are also members of their local FFA alumni chapter. The whole family is involved in 4-H. The Engelbrechts will do anything they can to support youth in agriculture education opportunities.
Ron and Chris Schultz Family
Ron started working on his family’s farm when he was about six years old. He mostly tended livestock and moved to field work as he grew older. When Ron was a senior in high school, his father let him work a few acres of his own. He also milked cows and raised pigs. Ron later married Christine and the couple had seven children.
The Schultz family grows corn, soybeans and oats. They also raise cattle from calves to finish and recently retired from running a farrow-to-finish hog operation.
Ron and Chris’s sons, Dominic, Vincent, Bernie and Christopher, still help on the farm. Dominic, Bernie and Christopher farm with their dad, and on their own. Vincent returns to help with field work in the fall. The sons help order inputs and assist with planting, spraying, harvesting and tillage. The Schultz daughters, Andrea, Chelsea, and Marielle, helped on the farm while growing up.
Ron and Chris are very involved in their church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Easton. Ron served for many years on the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic School board. Bernie is a township supervisor, volunteer fireman and on the church board. The Schultzes are members of the county, state and national Corn Growers Associations.
Jahn Family Farm
In the 1930s and ’40s, Rick Jahn’s great-grandparents, William and Nora, raised beef cattle and ran a commercial chicken business. Rick’s grandparents, Robert and Maxine, continued raising beef cattle until 1966 when the farm transitioned to a hog finishing business. Rick’s father, Richard (Dick), grew up on the farm. In 1969, Dick and his wife, Sharon, purchased a farm two miles west of the Jahn home farm and raised their children, including Rick, there. Dick and Sharon still live on their farm. Rick and his wife, Gina, raised their three children on the Jahn farm.
Three years ago, Rick and Gina, along with Dick and Sharon, decided to end their hog finishing business after their feeder pig supplier of over 50 years no longer sold pigs. The Jahn family is forever grateful for the business partnership the family had with Ken and Joanne Vrieze and their son, Kevin, and his wife, Carley. Currently, the farm consists of 2,700 acres of corn and soybeans on owned and rented land.
Rick and Gina have three children. Daughter Shelby was married in June with the reception on her grandparents Dick and Sharon's farm. The Jahns’ daughter Nora attends Winona State University and their son, William, will start at Winona State this fall.
Dick and Sharon, as they gradually move into retirement, are thankful to be in a business partnership with their son and daughter-in-law. All four have been involved in running the successful family business.
The Jahn family has been active in their community in many ways including their church, Our Savior Lutheran. They’ve volunteered with the Kingsland School District, Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Kiwanis, Spring Valley Community Foundation, Spring Valley Cemetery Association and more. When they were raising hogs, the Jahns were members of the Fillmore County Pork Producers Association. Rick currently serves on the CHS producer board.
Jon and Ann Larson
The Larson family farm began in the 1850s when Jon’s great-great-grandfather, William White, moved from New York and settled on the land in southeast Minnesota. Jon’s great-grandfather, Richard, added to the current farm when he received land in exchange for his service during the Civil War. In 1960, Jon’s parents, David and Raymona, started dairy farming which is still the focus of the operation today.
When Raymona retired from teaching to start her family she cashed in her retirement savings and purchased seven registered Holsteins that became the cornerstone of the Larsons’ genetic business today. Jon and Ann currently farm about 600 acres of corn, oats and alfalfa. They milk 200 registered Holsteins.
Throughout the Larsons’ genetic business, they have sold embryos to buyers in more than 20 countries and have sent over 100 bulls to be used in AI.
The Larson farm is owned by Jon and Ann along with their son, Tyler. Jon’s oldest brother, Mark, owns two ag-related businesses and has been taking care of hoof health of the Larson herd for many years. Mark’s late sister Carolyn was a professor of dairy science. His sister Linda is involved with showing and grooming the family’s cattle for visitors to the farm and Linda’s son, Chase, represents the sixth generation of the family to farm the land. Many nieces and nephews help on the farm when possible.
Jon and Ann have served on the council of Bear Lake Lutheran Church and helped create and lead the church’s youth group. Jon has been president of the Freeborn County DHIA for 20 years and served as president of the Freeborn County Registered Holstein Breeders for a decade. Jon and Ann are volunteers with 4-H and have coached both quiz bowl and judging teams. Linda is involved with FFA alumni.
Eugene and Sherri Betcher
Eugene started farming in 1978 on shares with a neighbor. Eugene eventually bought him out. Sherri moved to Minnesota from Colorado and married Eugene in 1999. The couple moved to their current location in 2004. The Betchers operate the farm and do custom planting, spraying and combining. Sherri also owns a floral business.
The Betchers’ farm consists of 500 acres of corn, soybeans and hay. In addition to their custom planting, spraying and harvesting work, they custom feed 100 head of cattle in the fall and winter. They also raise Shorthorn cattle and a few hogs for 4-H projects.
Eugene and Sherri’s son Ty is married to Kristina and they have one child, Rhyker. Their daughter, Ashlyn, is married to Blake, and Matthew is the Betchers’ youngest son.
The Betchers have been active in 4-H for over 21 years serving as 4-H leaders, on the county 4-H council, budget committee, the Goodhue County Extension Committee and any place needed to help 4-H. The Betchers volunteer their time with the Goodhue County Fair and are members of the Minnesota Shorthorn Association, The Minnesota Corn Growers, Pheasants Forever and the Wabasha County Cattlemen. The family is active in their church and Eugene and Sherri coach the Goodhue High School Trap Team.
Dan and Cheryl Wiste & Bjorn and Amanda Rud
The Wiste farm was purchased in 1947 by Dan’s grandparents, Reuben and Sarah Wiste. Many years later, Dan’s parents, Robert and Helen, purchased the farm and started expanding by buying more land. Dan began farming full-time after graduating from high school. He later purchased the farm from his parents and has made improvements to the original building site.
Dan and Cheryl’s daughter, Amanda, has been home farming with her dad since graduating from college in 2009. They milk about 50 dairy cows and raise their own replacement heifers. They have around 40 beef cows and feed out all their steers, both dairy and beef. The family grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa and oats.
Dan and Cheryl are the owner-operators of the farm. Also involved in the operation are Amanda and her husband, BJ, along with their children, Abby, Kailey, Jake and Emily. Dan is involved in all aspects of the operation. Amanda handles daily chores including milking and calf care. BJ helps with fieldwork. Also contributing to the farm’s success are Dan and Cheryl’s son, Jim, along with their daughter Rachel and her husband Josh Mattson, and their kids, Cole and Gavin.
Dan is currently serving as a Blackhammer Township supervisor. He has served on the family’s church council and the boards of the county American Dairy Association and DHIA. He has volunteered time at the Houston County Fair.
Cheryl has held numerous positions at her church, is a member of the Garden Club and the county Relay for Life team. She also volunteers with the county fair. Amanda is also very involved in the Houston County Fair and is a member of her local Holstein Club. She coaches elementary school girls’ basketball and was a district delegate for Accelerated Genetics.
Josh and Judi Weiss, Back Home Farms
Josh and Judi started their farming operation in 2012 with three piglets they brought home in the back of a pickup from a local livestock auction. Their farm has grown to include about 15 sows, over 50 head of cattle, more than 20 head of sheep, chickens—both egg layers and meat type—and a couple of horses.
The Weisses sell meat at the Park Rapids Farmers Market in addition to a store they recently opened on their farm. The family also launched a meat and vegetable CSA this year.
Josh and Judi, along with Josh’s two children, Adison and Sawyer, are involved with their local 4-H club and the Headwaters Youth Sheep Fun Show. Josh and Judi are co-managers with another vendor of the Park Rapids Farmers Market. In past years, the Weisses have hosted farm tours and last year the family also held virtual farm tours for homebound seniors and their caregivers through Lutheran Social Services.
The LaRowe family farm was started in 1911 by Scott LaRowe’s maternal grandfather, Louie Hendricks. Louie milked cows and farmed 240 acres. Louie grew vegetables and took them to the Twin Cities to sell during the Great Depression. When Scott was 16 years old, he and his father, Gordy, decided to farm the land together. By the time Scott and Kristi were married in 1985, the farm had grown to 1,000 acres. The couple expanded by buying farms, then selling the house and a few acres, which helped offset their costs.
Currently, the LaRowes own and run 660 acres in southern Minnesota in addition to owning and renting 2,500 acres in Isanti County. They raise corn, soybeans and small grains. The family employs six or seven workers in the spring and summer including Chris Morrisetti who works full-time on the farm and has done so since he was 15.
Scott and Kristi’s sons were very involved in the farm growing up and now come back to the farm to help. Matthew still likes to help finish the fields and owns his own business. Andrew works in road construction and likes to help plant and Levi is a realtor but still finds time to plow the fields.
Scott is an elder at Cross Pointe Church in Cambridge, where the LaRowes volunteer a good deal of their time, and they are members of the Farm Bureau Federation. Scott’s greatest pastime is finding agates in their fields where he has found many unique rocks.
Scott and Kristi bought a lake home near their farm where they enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren—especially time fishing.
John and Lisa Rajala family
The John and Lisa Rajala family operation was born of the broader Rajala Forest Products company in Itasca County. John is the fourth generation of the forestry family. John worked with his father, Jack, for decades developing innovative silviculture and forest management practices specific to northern Minnesota and its native tree species. John and Lisa and their three children continue to develop and apply their “boots on the ground and hands-on” silviculture methods to thousands of acres of ecologically restored forest lands.
The Rajalas apply silviculture methods in harvest, regeneration, and tending. This means carefully planned harvests that mimic natural disturbances of wind, fire, drought, and pathogens. The variable density, continuous cover forests that result from regeneration harvests are then carefully and intentionally encouraged to regenerate naturally from adjacent tree seed. Tending techniques include quality selection, spacing, protection from deer, pruning, and intermediate thinning harvests.
Products from the various harvest stages include biomass for carbon neutral energy, industrial lumber products, framing lumber, and fine timber and millwork products.
John and Lisa are co-leaders of the operation. Their daughter Sarah, a silviculturist, also offers medical support. Daughter Claire is a board member of Rajala Woods Foundation and is also a silviculturist. Their son Ethan began full time work in the business this spring, is silvicultural team leader and offers marketing support.
The Rajala family participates in a wide variety of agricultural and forestry organizations and activities, especially pertaining to supporting natural, ecological forests and prairies, protecting pristine water resources, and those that work to resist, adapt to, and mitigate climate change.
Bill and Rhonda Brandt Farms
The Brandt family farm started in 1979 when Bill purchased 80 acres with a building site from a neighbor. Bill and Rhonda were married in 1987; their farm at the time consisted of a farrow-to-finish hog operation, a beef feeder/finisher business, along with growing corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, and alfalfa.
Currently, the family’s farm consists of caring for 1,200 finishing hogs and 314 acres split between corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa. In 2000, the Brandts started Brandt Gardens and Greenhouse as a way for their boys to gain various skills. 13 years later the business became Brandt Garden and Greenhouse LLC. The family grows a large selection of produce on six acres they sell at local farmers markets and through a CSA.
Bill and Rhonda, along with several local part-time employees, provide most of the labor involved with the business. Their son Matthew and his wife, Kelly, live in Illinois; son Nathan and his wife, Beth, and their daughter live in Wisconsin; and Aaron and his wife, Adrianna, live in Maple Grove. They often come home to help when needed. All the Brandt children were involved in 4-H and FFA growing up. Nathan ran a sheep operation on the farm until 2020.
Bill and Rhonda have been very involved in their community over the years. Bill was a member of the Jackson County Pork Producers, Cottonwood/Jackson Cattlemen, Jackson County Farm Bureau, Lakefield Jaycees and was involved with the Jackson County Arts Guild. Bill was very active in music in the community including having served as a choir director at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and a vocal music teacher at West Elementary in Worthington and Butterfield-Odin Public Schools.
Rhonda worked as Jackson County Extension 4-H and Youth Development Agent from 1981 to 1991, served as a judge at many local and state 4-H events and was a past member of the Minnesota 4-H Foundation board. She served as Worthington Area Learning Center principal for two years and is currently serving as principal at the MN Valley Learning Center.
The first members of the Nielsen family came to America from Denmark in 1921 and moved to southern Minnesota to begin farming. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Nielsen family farming in the U.S.
Terry and Laneta Nielsen left southern Minnesota’s Martin County with their children in 1980 and purchased land south of Ogilvie in Kanabec County. Along with the help of their children the Nielsens began their new farming operation on a few hundred acres raising 400 head of cattle and 200 sows. Currently, the farm grows corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, alfalfa, and hay. It is home to many cow/calf pairs.
Terry and Laneta are the owner/operators of the farm. Their son, Darek, is a co-owner and along with his wife, Ally, takes care of a wide variety of daily and seasonal tasks. The Nielsens’ daughter, Mindy, drives semi and is the roller operator. Terry’s brother, Gary, contributes to the farm’s success by driving the semi-truck.
The Nielsens conduct on-farm trials for several agricultural companies and their own personal knowledge. They’ve been part of Randy Dowdy’s Next Level group the last couple of years and the family participates in the Adopt-a-Highway program.
Brouwer Berries, Brouwer Family
Dan and Sarah’s berry farm began in 1998 as a very small operation on Dan’s parents’ land. The couple grew less than an acre of strawberries for the first 15 years in business. They sold out quickly each morning and realized then they needed to get big or quit. Dan and Sarah moved to the farm in Kandiyohi County and increased their planted acreage, investing in new equipment and irrigation to support their nine acres of berry production.
The Brouwers sell all their strawberries directly to consumers from the farm. They operate a U-pick business as well as offering pre-picked strawberries. The family also raises sheep. The Brouwers’ four younger children all work on the farm, doing fieldwork, serving customers and making jam. The couple’s parents help in every way they can, driving tractors, washing berries and giving advice. Karen refugees work at the berry farm during the harvest season.
Dan is the main berry grower; Sarah oversees selling them. Their children Alinda, Heidi, Tim, and James provide labor. The kids’ grandparents, Wilson and Linda, fill in where they are needed.
Sarah teaches middle-school science and brings her students to the farm for lessons in soil testing, beekeeping, lambing and berry blossoming. Brouwer Berries is in the third year of a grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture studying the effects of grazing sheep on soil health as part of a strawberry crop rotation. The grant involves reaching the public through a blog and hosting the public on the farm in addition to the information gleaned by students who visit the farm.
After growing up on a dairy farm near Rollag, Kurt married Denise on her family’s farm near Karlstad in northwest Minnesota. After a few years working in the banking and accounting industries, the couple started farming with Denise’s father, the late Lloyd Johnson, and her brother, Dean. They raised certified seed potatoes, wheat, barley, sugar beets, edible beans, and sunflowers on their Century Farm. The farm is currently raising seed wheat, seed soybeans, and corn.
The Aakres have three children. Their son, Adam and his wife, Shawna, along with their kids, Landon, Mandie, Levi, and baby due in November, joined the farming operation near Springbrook in 2016. Kurt and Denise’s daughter Ashley blessed the family for a short 10 months on Earth. Their daughter Alexis is a registered nurse and her husband, Bennet Uhler, is an engineer. The couple has a daughter, Layla, and is expecting a baby in September.
The Aakres are long-time members of Karlstad Assembly of God Church where they’ve been involved in various aspects of leadership and ministry. Kurt serves on the Heritage Christian School Board and he served for many years on the Karlstad Elevator and Kittson County Crop Improvement Boards.
Dale and Deedra Erickson, Erickson Herefords
Dale was raised on the family’s farm that was started by his parents, Gerald and Isabel, in the 1930s. Dale and Deedra purchased the farm in 1985 after they were married. The farm’s original size was 360 acres but since Dale and Deedra took it over, the farm has grown to 1,300 acres, which also includes Deedra’s parents’ Erling and Iva Olson’s farm. The Ericksons raise registered and commercial Polled Herefords and grow oats and hay for feed.
Dale and Deedra began their operation with 15 Herefords and have grown to an average herd size of 150 head. Embryo transfer and artificial insemination are used to improve their herd. They regularly attend bull sales and have been buying bulls from Topp Herefords in North Dakota for the past 15 years. Deedra has a love of Arabian horses and she raised them for many years. The family also raises laying hens.
Dale and Deedra were both raised on dairy farms and Deedra showed Hereford cattle in 4-H. The couple has four children: Cameron, Karla, Calli and Grant. Deedra is active in their local community of Birchdale. She’s been a Sunday School teacher, a 4-H leader and a member of the River Valley Development Association. She served on the Indus School Scholarship Committee and volunteers her time in other ways as well. Dale owns Erickson Timber Products of Baudette and was honored as Lakes States Logger of the Year in 2015. Dale is active in the community, volunteering his time to many organizations and boards including serving on the local school board, on the Minnesota Forest Resource Council and is a current member of the Minnesota Timber Producers Association.
Luke and Ali Peterson
Luke and Ali started farming in 2011 and have transitioned their western Minnesota farm to organic production. The Petersons use regenerative practices to grow healthy, nutrient-dense food.
Luke and Ali farm 700 acres using very diverse crop rotations while eliminating fall tillage. They maintain cover crops on their land and integrate grazing into the rotation. The Petersons sell their produce as locally as possible, including local restaurants, grocery stores, mills, bakeries and breweries.
Luke and Ali are parents to three children: Esther, Orville and Oaker. Ali takes her cooking very seriously and sources only the best ingredients to feed her family. Esther enjoys riding along with her dad as he cultivates the crop. Orville and Oaker take farming quite seriously and are always willing to join in the effort.
Luke serves on the steering committee of Perennial Promise Cooperative and is active in the Land Stewardship Project.
Beth Haselow’s family has been farming for four generations. The family’s farm started as a dairy and evolved into raising, selling, and processing beef cows. Producing quality hay has also been a large part of the farm over the years. Jacob and Beth Haselow produce 700 to 1,000 round bales a year that are used to feed their cattle and horses and sold to local farms.
A horse boarding operation was added to the farm in 2001 with the help of Beth’s dad, Kevin Bergman. The farm is currently boarding 30 horses in addition to a small beef herd and haying.
Jacob and Beth run all aspects of their operation and have two daughters: Josie Harris and Charlotte Haselow. Josie has been involved in 4-H for about three years and helps around the farm wherever she is able. She has a special fondness for the horses. One year-old Charlotte is so far along for the ride but really enjoys the animals.
Josie and Charlotte’s grandmothers, Jenny Bergman and Tricia Haselow, often provide much-needed help, whether it’s with the animals or watching their granddaughters.
Beth credits her father, Kevin, for teaching her everything she knows about farming while serving as her inspiration. Kevin passed away in 2019 but his love for farming helped shape Beth and Jacob’s love of the farm.
The Haselow family is involved in 4-H and they love helping fellow farmers in their community, many of whom helped the Haselows over the past year.
Scott Wilson was passionate about nature, science and farming. Early on, he spent much of his free time outside of school and athletics hunting, fishing and helping neighbors with their farms. He also raised a small hog herd and some sheep. In 1980, after marrying his wife, Mary, the couple joined Scott’s dad, Gerry, and planted Christmas trees on 12 acres of property Scott grew up on.
The Wilsons cared for their new crop of trees, planting more each year throughout the ’80s and into the 1990s. In 1988, the first harvest took place. The Wilsons continued to fill each section of land with trees and took out lease agreements with various landowners around Le Sueur to continue to meet their growing consumer demand for Christmas trees at the family business, Brewery Hill Christmas Trees.
In the last seven years, Scott and Mary purchased the family farm and an adjacent parcel which expanded the operation by 200 percent. With the additional land Scott and Mary diversified their business to include asparagus, pick your own strawberries, and they grew pumpkins. Each year the family plants between 2,500 and 3,000 trees, 6,000 berry plants and over 13 varieties of squash and pumpkins. Almost all the labor is provided by Scott and Mary’s children, their spouses and grandchildren.
The Wilson family collaborates with the Le Sueur/Henderson Wrestling Association and Hilltop Elementary School for wreath fundraising. The family offers tours of its farm and hosts Boy Scout Troops for badge work. They are involved members of the Minnesota Christmas Tree Growers Association. Brewery Hill Christmas Tree farm is part of Le Sueur County’s soil and water conservation program.
In 2018, Scott’s father, Gerry, and Scott’s wife, Mary, passed away. Both gave so much to the farm in thought, care and dedication. Scott attributes the success of the farm as a labor of love. The Wilsons know the importance of family that Gerry and Mary prided themselves in and the practices and philosophies of the farm are dedicated to giving customers the sense of family.
Chris Noble grew up farming with his family in Lincoln County and went on to pursue a career in agronomy after graduating from South Dakota State University with a master’s degree in agronomy and entomology. After conducting research throughout the country for Monsanto, he was able to find a position within the company that led him home to southwest Minnesota.
In 2010, the Noble farm began with the purchase of Chris’s grandfather’s farm, while Chris continued to work full-time with Monsanto. He farmed with his dad making sure all the latest technologies were adopted.
The family’s current farm consists of 340 acres with 230 tillable that are planted to corn and soybeans. The remaining acres are enrolled in CRP. For the past decade, strip-till and no-till methods have been used. Cover crops are currently being incorporated to improve soil health and to suppress weeds. Chris and his wife, Jillian, have four children who enjoy their 18 egg-laying hens and their dog, Lucy.
Chris is the main operator of the farm, spending most of his free time prepping and fixing equipment, purchasing inputs, developing cropping plans, planting, spraying, harvesting, and strip-tilling.
Jillian Carstensen-Noble spends most of her time keeping track of the details of the operation as the farm’s accountant as well as caring for the couple’s children. She also drives tractor and assists wherever she is needed in the farming operation.
Gretchen Noble and Hunter Carstensen are the couple’s two oldest children and stay busy around the farm helping with a variety of chores. Jackson and Colby Noble are the two youngest children and they, too, are always lending a hand on the farm.
Chris works full time for Bayer Crop Science and serves as a supervisor on the Lake Stay Township board. The Noble family are active members of the Ivanhoe Greenleaf 4H club and love to serve their community through many volunteering opportunities.
Scott Louwagie Family
Oscar Gerard Louwagie immigrated from Belgium in 1948. After working for his uncle Hector Louwagie, Oscar went back to Belgium, married Alice Leeman, and returned to the U.S. to farm near Green Valley, Minn. The couple moved to the current farm site in Lyon County in 1968 where the family maintained a diverse operation of dairy cows, hogs, chickens, corn and alfalfa. In 1993, Oscar and Alice’s sons, Peter and Scott, began running the farm after the death of their father. Scott and his wife, Janelle, have two children, Blake and Adeline.
The current farm includes a Grade A dairy of 90 cows, all the young heifers and bull calves, as well as a 350-head market steer confinement operation. The Louwagies also grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa on 675 acres.
Scott oversees the cows. He handles all the milking and shares some of the other duties with Peter. Scott and Adeline take care of the calves from birth to weaning. Scott and Blake handle feed duty once the calves have left their hutches and the heifers are of breeding age and the steers are ready to finish. Peter and his son, Zack, take care of loading the mixer wagon and feeding the older animals. Peter’s wife, Melissa, handles the financial records for the farm. Fieldwork gets divided among all family members.
Janelle is a pharmacist at Hy-Vee Pharmacy in Marshall. She’s been a 4-H club leader and has served as Lyon County Fair dairy superintendent and as a member of the 4-H livestock committee. She also teaches CCD classes at St. Clotilde and St. Mary’s Catholic Churches.
Blake and Adeline have been involved in the Swan Lake 4-H Club for many years. They both exhibit projects and their horses and dairy cattle at the county fair and Minnesota State Fair. Blake and Adeline are members of the American Guernsey Association and have exhibited at the World Dairy Expo. Both are very involved in a variety of activities at school, and through their participation in national Pony of the Americas organizations they have shown horses all over the Midwest.
Steve, Gina and Jake Worms
Steve’s parents, Herb and Alma, purchased the farm in northwestern Minnesota in the 1940s and started their dairy and small grains operation. They exited the dairy business in 1983. Eight years later, Steve and Gina purchased the farm and launched a beef feedlot while raising small grains, corn, soybeans and sunflowers.
In 2005, Steve and Gina established North Star Premium Beef, Inc, a retail beef sales company featuring all-natural beef products. Last year, Steve and Gina’s son, Jake, joined the operation, adding his own rented acres, and Worms Farms began.
Today, the family grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and wheat in addition to operating a beef feedlot and cow/calf business. All feeder calves are finished in the feedlot and sold through the retail beef business. The family sells beef that is free of growth hormones and antibiotics; it’s corn-fed and USDA inspected at processing.
Steve is owner-operator of Worms Farms and North Star Premium Beef. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Crookston. Gina is an owner as well and handles the bookkeeping. She’s been a teacher at Waubun High School for 33 years. Jake is a part owner of the farm and helps with the record keeping. Jake is a 2019 graduate of NDSU with a degree in agri-business; he is employed at Ag Country Farm Credit Services and is a sales rep for Dahlman Seed Company. Steve and Gina’s daughter Kaitlin is a credit analyst at Ag Country Farm Credit Services and daughter Hanna will attend NDSU this fall studying nursing.
The Wormses are members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau and have been involved in the Mahnomen County Emerging Leadership Program. The family belongs to St. Michael’s Catholic Church and was very involved in the county 4-H program. They have volunteered with other local organizations including sports booster clubs at Mahnomen High School and the Sno-Drifters Snowmobile Club.
Ryan and Karen Griffin Family
Ryan grew up on a dairy farm near Rochester in southeastern Minnesota. He and Karen have been involved in the dairy industry since 2003. Ryan and Karen purchased their first foundation animal in 2005 and two years later they moved to the Thief River Falls area of northwestern Minnesota. In 2008, the Griffins purchased their current farm in Marshall County. The family has focused their dairy on genetics. They market embryos and breeding stock throughout the country.
Currently, the Griffins milk 12 registered Holsteins, all Red Holsteins or carrying the red gene. The family focuses on breeding cows that last and are successful in the show ring. They put heavy emphasis on milk quality and cow comfort. For the past three years the Griffins have been recognized by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Land O’ Lakes for being a top herd in the state for exceeding milk quality standards.
The family also raises a few dozen laying hens and a dozen ducks. Eggs are gathered daily and sold locally.
Ryan is in charge of the milking herd and management of the farm. He makes all breeding and feeding decisions. Karen helps with animal care and handles the farm’s finances. She also coordinates farm visits of individuals and groups who want to learn more about the farm and the animals. The Griffins are champions of consumer education. The family teams up with a local kindergarten to pair students with a heifer calf. The students get to follow the life of the calf during the school year.
The Griffins’ children, Curtis, Evelyn and Agnes, help care for the animals and help prepare them for various shows.
Ryan serves on the National Red and White Dairy Cattle board of directors and the Marshall County Extension Committee. Karen is a worship leader and is involved with the Awana Club at the family’s church. She serves as township clerk and on the Red River Valley Emerging Leaders Program.
Wendell and Helen Rode Family
The Rode family farm was purchased by Wendell’s mother and father, Rudolph and Clarena, in 1958. Wendell grew up helping with the farming operation that included livestock, grain farming, laying hens and a dairy herd. After Wendell and Helen were married in 1972 the couple began their own farming business. They eventually purchased the family farm in 1982 where the couple continued to farm until their retirement in 2018.
The farm remains in the family today. The Rodes’ daughter and son-in-law, Leah and David Mulder, have purchased the acreage portion while the tillable land is rented out. The Rodes have set aside a small parcel for participation in CREP. Throughout the years, the family has offered acres for research and test plots for local seed companies.
The Rodes raised their daughter, Leah, their son, Brian, and niece, Kendra, on the farm and shared in their involvement in Martin County West FFA. In later years. Leah, Brian, Kendra and their families continued to help with fall harvest and other chores.
Wendell has been involved in numerous community and agriculture organizations and served 12 years as district supervisor on the Martin County Soil and Water Conservation District. He also served on the Minnesota Association of Resource Conservation and Development Council. He was a charter member of the Welcome Jaycees and Welcome Lions Club and is a lifetime member of the Fox Lake Conservation Club. Wendell is president of the Welcome Historical Society.
Helen is very active in the community having served on the STEP and Martin County Historical Society Board. Helen also developed and coordinated the Martin County Mentoring Network for area youth. The network was a collaboration between University of Minnesota Extension and Martin County that received a statewide county achievement award.
Miller Family Farms
The Miller Family Farm started around 1948 when Herman Miller Sr. purchased the home farm in Penn Township. He farmed and raised pigs until he passed away in 1955. That year, his son, Herman Jr. was 15. Herman Jr.’s sister and brother-in-law ran the farm until Herman Jr. finished high school.
After completing high school Herman returned home to manage the farm. In the late 1970s, his oldest son, Kevin, began farming with Herman and they continued farming together for many years. In 2006, Herman semi-retired and Kevin began to take over the operation. Kevin currently manages the farm along with the help of his sons, Logan and Lane.
Kevin and his sons currently raise pigs in a farrow-to-finish operation as well as producing corn for Heartland Corn Products, sweet corn for Seneca Foods, and soybeans for seed production. In addition to farming with their dad, Lane and Logan rent some of their own land and are raising a small cow/calf beef herd with plans to expand.
Logan and Lane help with all fieldwork involved in crop production as well as the daily chores of the farrow-to-finish business. Logan works off the farm at AgRevival in Gibbon. Daughter Lindsay is a veterinary student at the University of Minnesota with plans to be a food animal veterinarian after graduation. She pitches in when time allows and advises on herd health and improving farrowing efficiencies. Lane recently received his Farm Operations and Management diploma with an emphasis on livestock production from Ridgewater College.
Kevin and family belong to Immanuel Lutheran Church in Brownton where Kevin has served in many different roles. Kevin is on the Penn Township Board, the High Island Watershed Board and is a member of the Brownton Lions Club. Kevin’s wife, Brenda, worked for Glencoe Regional Health Services for 27 years and volunteered a great deal of time with various groups including her church, Lake Marion 4-H, McLeod West and GFW school boards and GFW FFA. She enjoyed spending time with her community, friends, and family as well as camping and gardening. Brenda passed away last year and she is missed by all.
Steve and Joan Turck Family
Steve and Joan are the fourth generation of the family to farm on the Turck farm. In the past, the Turcks raised registered Hampshire hogs and were crop farmers. They also operated a dog boarding kennel. Currently, the family grows corn, soybeans and Christmas trees; they also have land in CRP.
The Turcks began planting Christmas trees 40 years ago and have since expanded to a choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm. In the early 2000s, the Turcks added deciduous trees to the tree planting operation. The family devotes about 100 acres to their retail and wholesale tree business and the remainder of their land is in corn and soybeans.
The Turcks grow and sell six different types of Christmas trees; they operate a seasonal gift shop and sell custom designed balsam and Fraser fir wreaths. They also sell a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees for transplanting.
The Turcks get help from their immediate family and hired youth and adults. Their son Jesse and his wife, Jean, work as architects in the metro area. Jesse and Jean, along with their three children, provide help seasonally and whenever they are able. Steve and Joan’s son Nathan is a chiropractor and along with his wife, Jessica, a photographer, and their three children, provide help wherever needed.
Steve and Joan have been involved in the Litchfield Area Mentorship Program. Steve was a coach for the Litchfield Youth Wrestling Program, a board member and past president of the MN Christmas Tree Growers Association and a longtime member of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and Pheasants Forever.
Joan is a retired nurse and volunteers time with the Litchfield Area Hospice and volunteers at the family’s church. Steve and Joan have been supporters and leaders with 4-H and FFA.
William Gerth was the first generation to purchase the farm in 1924. The farm ownership was passed down through the family until 1965 when Gene and Judy Gerth moved to the homestead to start their family. Gene and Judy raised purebred Angus cattle and later hogs. In addition to livestock, they grew corn, soybeans, and hay. As their family grew, sons Ross and Ryan became fully involved in day-to-day operations alongside their parents.
Upon Gene’s passing in 2009, Ross and Ryan took over the operations of the Gerth family farm. They are the 4th generation to farm the land. Today, the farm is operated by Ross, Ryan, and their mother, Judy. Currently, they grow corn and soybeans on owned and rented land. In addition to their own farm the Gerths also do custom work for a few local farms. The combination of their own farm and custom work finds the Gerths covering just under a couple thousand acres per year.
Judy is a past secretary/manager of the Mille Lacs County Fair. Gene served on the Mille Lacs County Fair board for 25 years, the Minnesota State Fair board, and the Mille Lacs County SWCD board. Ryan and Ross are also active members of the community. Ryan is a current board member of the East Central Corn Growers Association. Ross is a current board member of Federated Co-ops.
Both Ryan and Ross have full-time careers outside of farming with families of their own. Ryan and his wife, Annie, have a daughter, Aurora. Ross and his wife, Michelle, have a son, Grayson. Judy worked for Princeton State Bank prior to staying home to raise her sons. Today, Judy remains busy continuing to help where she is needed in farming operations and enjoying being a grandma.
Calvin and Tammy Beumer, Lone Pine Farm
Lone Pine Farm was started in 1937 by Henry Beumer, Calvin’s grandfather. Years later, Henry’s son Edmund and his wife, Mary, purchased the farm. In 1983, Calvin and Tammy bought the dairy farm from Calvin’s parents. In 1987, they built a poultry barn to raise broiler chickens for the Jack Frost company and in 2004 the family started a beef cow herd.
The Beumers have established a diverse approach to farming. The family’s operation includes 85 dairy cows, chickens, and a cow/calf herd. The family also grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa, oats, and grass hay on about 600 acres. Conservation of the farm’s soil and natural resources has been important to the Beumers throughout the family’s history on the farm.
Calvin and Tammy manage the day-to-day operation of the farm. Their four children and grandchildren enjoy spending time and helping on the farm. Their son Allen and his wife, Heather, along with their children manage the chicken barn. The Beumer’s daughter Leann and her husband, Chad, and their children manage the beef herd.
The Beumers are members of St. Rita’s Church in Hillman and are members of the Minnesota DHIA. The family is involved in the Hillman Swampstompers Snowmobiling Club and supports the Milaca FFA Foundation. Calvin served on his local FSA committee, Milaca school board and is currently serving on the board of directors of Sunrise Ag Cooperative.
Jon and Ruth Jovaag
Three generations of Jovaags are currently involved in the family farm in southeast Minnesota. The first generation, Arvid and Lois, began farming the land in 1981 and are still very much involved today. Their wisdom and life experience are immensely valued, and they are asked regularly for advice. The second generation, Jon and Ruth, along with Jon’s sister, Kari, work full-time on the farm. The third generation, Jon and Ruth’s teenage children, are Alex, Ava, Archer and Alayna.
Jon and Ruth work to keep alive the farm’s traditions of soil health and land stewardship. They have added new enterprises and pursuits to the farm and have diversified the operation to support their family.
One such pursuit started seven years ago by certifying a small part of the farm as organic. Since then, more fields have been certified each year and the entire farm should be certified organic next year. Along with farming organically, Jon and Ruth enjoy trying new methods to build organic matter and improve soil health: roller-crimping soybeans into standing rye, more crop rotations, cover crops and interseeding. The Jovaags also raise antibiotic-free pigs in a farrow-to-finish deep-bedded system, Katahdin sheep, and they are starting grass-fed beef and growing organic produce for local markets.
The Jovaags are members of the Land Stewardship Project, and their farm has been certified by the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. They’ve hosted many field days on their farm and continue to support a wide range of farming, food and environmental organizations.
Kerry and Kimberly Ruppert Family
The Ruppert farm started with 160 acres in Murray Township. It was homesteaded in 1897 by Kerry’s great-grandparents, John and Mary Ruppert. John and Mary’s son, John V. and his wife, Theresa, purchased the farm in 1933. Their son, Melvin, and his wife, JoEllyn, purchased the farm in 1975 and added 200 additional acres. The farm is now run by Melvin and JoEllyn’s son, Kerry, and his wife, Kimberly. Kerry started farming in 1981 after graduating from Canby Vo-Tech. He later purchased the farm from his parents.
Kerry and Kimberly met and married in 2001 while Kerry was working at Schwan’s in Marshall. Kerry has a degree in production agriculture and Kimberly earned a degree in ag business. They have three children: Haylee, Zachery and Katelyn. The kids all help around the farm with chores that include driving grain carts, picking rocks, unloading grain and soil sampling. They also help with the family’s garden business, Ruppert Garden Produce, which is paying for their college education. The Ruppert farming operation consists of 1,200 acres of owned and rented land planted to corn and soybeans.
Kerry runs the day-to-day operation of the farm; Kimberly helps wherever she is needed. Haylee graduated from college with an agriculture business degree and lives with her boyfriend, Josh Anker, in Murdo, S.D., helping him with his cow/calf and grain operation. Zachery is enrolled at Minnesota West-Worthington working toward a plant science degree and Katelyn will be in 9th grade this fall at Tracy High School.
The Rupperts are members of IHM Church in Currie and the Minnesota Farm Bureau. Kerry and Kim oversee the Tracy Area Youth Pool League and Kerry serves as the Tracy Area Pool League president. Kerry is a member of the Tracy Eagles Club. Haylee and Zachery were members of the Tracy Area FFA where Katelyn is currently a member. The family is honored to be the Murray County Farm Family of the Year.
Fred and Joy Struck
The Struck family’s Traverse des Sioux Garden Center started in 1972 as Silent Oaks Nursery. It began in a converted hog house on the family farm. Eventually, a greenhouse was built on the farm and in 1981 the Strucks’ retail garden and landscaping company was named Traverse des Sioux Garden Center.
The business is a horticultural grower and retailer. The family produces most of their annuals, hanging baskets and vegetable plants for the garden center in modern glass greenhouses. The Strucks’ landscape division is rapidly expanding with over 20 employees.
Fred and Joy Struck are the founders of the operation. Fred received a Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture science from the University of Minnesota in 1968. The Strucks have three sons. Karl is the head grower and landscape foreman. Keith is head of the retail operation. He takes care of merchandising, buys pottery, and tropical plants. The Strucks’ son Oren is not involved in the operation but readily lends encouragement. All three boys are third-generation members of the Norsland 4-H Club in Nicollet County. Fred’s many years with horticulture 4-H projects in his youth played a big role in his career choice.
Fred has served on the garden committee of the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association and has been on the board of Linnaeus Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College. The Strucks are members of the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce, the Norseland Preservation Society, and are active in their church, Norseland Lutheran Church in St. Peter.
D&S Hilltop Farms: Dorward and Shirley Dykstra, Steve and Esther Dykstra
Dorward and Shirley were married in 1964 and began farming and milking cows. The farm was purchased in 1969 while Dorward was serving in the reserves in Vietnam. Dorward and Shirley had four children: Gary, Cindy, Steven and Cherilyn. Steven joined the operation in 1990. He married his wife, Esther, three years later and they have six children: Carl, Karen, Trent, Stephanie, Paula and Lanae, all of whom participate in the day-to-day operations on the farm.
D&S Hilltop farm consists of 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, oats and pasture land, and 300-plus head of mostly Holstein dairy cows that are milked three times a day. The farm employs nine employees in addition to family members.
Dorward is vice president of D&S Hilltop Farms. He helps with planting, harvesting and many other jobs. Shirley supports the operation in countless ways including preparing and delivering meals. Steve is president of D&S Hilltop Farms and serves as operations manager. Esther is the bookkeeper and payroll secretary. Steve and Esther’s son, Carl, is employed full-time on the farm after graduating from the ProTech program at Dordt University. Karen works part time at Main Street Kids and serves as a Nobles County Dairy Princess. Trent will be a junior in high school this fall and participates in all aspects of the farm. Stephanie will be a freshman in high school, and helps with the livestock and enjoys driving tractor and skid loaders. Paula will be a seventh-grader and enjoys working with her Brown Swiss cattle. Lanae will be in fourth grade and helps pick rocks along with her siblings, but she enjoys riding her bike and four-wheelers better.
The Dykstras are very involved in their community including serving in various roles with Worthington Christian School, Bigelow Laotian Christian Reformed Church, Ocheyedan Christian Reformed Church, AMPI, Nobles County Dairy Associations, Bigelow Township Board, the Corn and Soybean Growers Associations, 4-H, and FFA.
Alan and Brenda Grunhovd
The Grunhovd farm was homesteaded by Alan’s great-great-grandfather, Engebert. The farm has been operated by Alan’s great-grandfather, Henry; his grandfather, Ray; and his father, Danny. Currently, Alan manages the farm with help from his wife, Brenda, and their daughters, Ava and Sofie. Alan’s parents, Danny and Nancy, still contribute to the farm’s success.
The Grunhovds operate a 120-cow dairy and raise all their own replacement heifers. They are starting to use more beef terminal sires to increase the value of their bull calves with plans to raise them to finish. The family grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa on 320 acres. They also grow a multi-species cover crop for forage.
Alan works full-time on the farm. Brenda is employed at Riverview Hospital in Crookston working in the business office as an accounts receivable representative and is also self-employed as a stylist at 104 Salon in Gary. Brenda helps on the farm when possible. Ava and Sofie assist with feeding calves, milking, driving tractor and taking care of their sheep, pigs, and horses. Danny and Nancy help with day-to-day operations as well.
Alan has served on the county Extension committee and his local co-op board. He’s also a member of the local Holstein club board. Alan is currently president of the Fertile-Beltrami FFA Alumni and was involved in the creation of the Northern Lights Youth Livestock Show. Alan and Brenda are big supporters of their local 4-H and FFA. Brenda is an adult lead for the Polk County 4-H Horse Project and she and their daughters are members of the Twin Valley Riders Club. Ava and Sofie are members of 4-H and FFA and participate in girls’ basketball and rodeo.
James and Helen Sheehan started milking cows in 1945 after James returned home from serving in World War II. James and Helen moved to the current farm location with their six children, Michael, Mary, Jim, Robert, Jerome, and Ann, in 1965. As the children grew older three of them came back home to farm. Jim returned in 1971 after being in the service, Jerome returned in 1977 after college, and in 1984 Robert returned to the farm and another farm location was purchased.
At the home farm a parlor and a free-stall barn were built in 2001. Jim’s sons, Steve and Ben, returned to farm after they finished college and Jerome’s daughter, Ellen, returned to the farm after college in 2018.
The Sheehans currently milk 250 cows in a parlor and another 55 in the tie stall barn. The family raises all its replacement heifers. The Sheehans own 850 acres on which they grow corn and alfalfa. The family rents another 150 acres. All the crops are used to feed their animals.
Many of the Sheehan family members are involved in local, state and national Holstein Association organizations. They are members of St. Bridget’s Church and participate in many community organizations.
Tom and Lori Race Family
Tom grew up farming with his father in northwestern Minnesota’s Pennington County. Tom’s dad started farming at the current home place in the 1950s. Early on, the Races raised milk cows, pigs and small grains.
Today, Tom and his son, Collin, who earned a degree in crop and weed science from North Dakota State University, grow small grains on about 3,500 acres. In addition to helping around the farm Lori has been a cosmetologist for 32 years. Tom and Lori’s daughter, Madilyn, will be a junior this fall at Minnesota State University-Moorhead.
Tom and Lori are very involved in their community. They were recently named “Outstanding Farm Leaders” by the Red River Valley Development Association. Tom is current chair of the Goodridge Township board and a member of the Goodridge Trailblazers. Lori served as a Sunday School superintendent and a parent member of the post-prom committee. Tom and Lori are past members of the Goodridge Jaycees.
Steve and Estelle Martin
Steve’s grandfather, Fred, purchased the original farm in 1920. He and his wife, Lydia, raised various livestock with their seven children. Steve’s parents, Arlan and Della, moved back to the farm in 1954 and purchased it. The couple ran a dairy operation with their six children. Steve moved back to the farm in 1986 after attending the University of Minnesota-Waseca and began dairy farming with his parents. Steve married Estelle in 1994 and they have a son, Joshua.
The Martins currently milk 51 Holstein cows in a step-up flat parlor. The cows are housed in a sand-bedded free-stall barn. The family raises their own replacement heifers and sells their bull calves. They own 320 acres and rent another 20. The land is used for grass hay and pasture; the Martins purchase grain from Munson Lakes Nutrition.
Steve and Estelle are the owner-operators of their farm. Joshua, who works off the farm as a security officer, helps when needed.
The Martins are members of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, MN Dairy Herd Improvement Association, American Dairy Association and Land O’Lakes Cooperative. They belong to Peace Lutheran Church in Finlayson. Steve and Estelle volunteer with many local organizations including the Hinckley/Finlayson Schools, the local fire department, Sandstone Soccer Association, the Pine County Dairy Board, the DHIA Board and their church.
Stout Family Farm
The Stout family’s Century Farm was started in 1907 by Ted Stout’s grandfather, Ted Smallfield. Ted’s parents, Bob and Lucien, were the next generation of the family to farm the land. They grew corn and soybeans and raised milk cows, fed fat cattle, kept a few hogs and chickens. They also ran a very successful seed corn business: Stout and Heesch Seeds.
Ted started farming right out of high school in 1984 with some cropland and a few Suffolk sheep. Ted married Joan in 1987 and began to add a commercial ewe flock and steadily grew the flock to 500 head. The sheep were sold in 2018. Pigs were added to the operation in 1993. The first of two 1,000-head finishing barns were built that year with a 2,400-head barn built in 2005. A custom manure hauling business was added at the same time.
Currently, the Stouts farm 1,100 acres of corn and soybeans in rotation. The family manages three pig finishing barns with capacity of 4,400 head. The family custom feeds pigs for Spronk Brothers of Edgerton. The Stouts also own and operate J & T Waste Management. Joan and a crew of part-time employees custom apply approximately 18 million gallons a year. Joan also works full time at Pipestone Management in the company’s applied research division.
Ted and Joan’s son Darrell and his wife, Megan, live on the same farm with their sons, Nolan and Mays. Darrell works for Enel Wind Services as a wind tower technician. He helps on the farm after work. Megan works for Nutrien Ag Solutions. The Stouts’ daughter, Aggie, and her husband, Matt Kennedy, live in South Dakota with their baby boy, Archie. Aggie is an audiologist and Matt is employed by Nutrient Advisors.
The Stouts are very involved in many local organizations, including the Pipestone Pork Producers, Pipestone area baseball/softball, and the Pipestone Development Company. Ted is a Gray Township Supervisor.
Matthew and Patricia Erickson
The Erickson farm started in 1888 when Matt’s maternal great-grandfather homesteaded the current location of the Erickson farm in Polk County. Matt and Patricia joined Matt’s dad, Jerome, and his uncle, Allen, in 1999 as a third partner. Five years later, Matt bought out Allen to join the operation as a half partner with his dad.
Currently, the Ericksons raise corn and alfalfa for livestock feed and they grow wheat and soybeans as cash crops. The Ericksons own a commercial Angus-based herd of 320 spring calving cows and 75 fall calving cows. The family has ownership of all offspring to either retain in the herd as heifers or to feed out in two family-owned feedlots. The Ericksons also direct market some of their beef to consumers in the region.
Matt’s dad is still very active in the daily operation of the farm, tending to chores and fieldwork. Matt is the primary bookkeeper and oversees everyday tasks and chores. Patricia helps when she can; she’s also a full-time, rural mail carrier.
Matt and Patricia have three children. Emery helps with daily chores and is in the process of building his own herd. Catie assists with the herd and fieldwork and daughter Sidney helps out where needed, especially during calving season. Both girls have a great start on their own herd of cattle in addition to owning their own flock of Suffolk X Hampshire club lambs.
The Erickson family is very involved in the community. They are active in 4-H. The Ericksons are members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. The family supports the local FFA program where Catie and Sidney are members at the Fertile Beltrami School. Catie recently won the 2021 FFA State Sheep Proficiency Award.
Matt chairs the Fertile Beltrami School Board and is a board member of the Pine to Prairie School Board. Patricia is current chair of the District 1 Minnesota Beef Council. Matt and Patricia were named the NDSU Harvest Bowl Outstanding Ag Honorees in 2008 and in 2015 were named Top 10 Outstanding Young Farmers.
Reichmann Homestead Farm
The Reichmann farm was purchased in 1920 by Theodore Reichmann, Curt’s great-grandfather. The farm has been handed down to five generations of the family and soon to be six. Theodore sold the farm to his son, August, who later sold it to his son, Clarence, Curt’s dad. Clarence sold the farm to Curt and his wife, Sharon. Now Curt and Sharon have sold shares of the farm to their sons, Tony and Dean. The farm will someday be passed on to their families.
The farm started out with chickens, pigs, geese and 100 dairy cows. The family grew corn, wheat, oats and alfalfa on 160 acres. Currently, the family grows alfalfa, corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, food-grade peas and beans. All are grown on 2,200 acres of owned and rented land. The Reichmanns do their own planting, harvesting and trucking and custom cut and bale hay and straw. They also feed out Holstein steers. The Reichmanns milked cows until 2013.
All family members help in the operation in addition to the work of several part-time employees. Curt is semi-retired, but still helps with fieldwork in the spring and fall and handles the bookkeeping. Sharon is also semi-retired but helps wherever needed. She takes care of the yard and other tasks. The Reichmanns’ son Tony is owner/operator of the farm and along with his wife, Kristin, has two children, Dominic and Lilly. Curt and Sharon’s son Dean is owner/operator as well and he and his wife, Angie, have three children, Mason, August and Alexander.
The Reichmanns were active in 4-H when Tony and Dean were younger. Dean serves on the Prairie Lakes Producer board at CHS in Glenwood. Angie is a member of the Minnewaska Area School board and is employed by CPSI Incorporated. Dean and Angie’s family are members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lowry. Tony and Kristin are members of First Lutheran Church in Alexandria. Kristin serves as treasurer of the Friends of Glacier Lake State Park. She is employed by 3M.
R & R Cultivation
Owner Nick Robinson is a Twin Cities native with a passion for growing fresh, gourmet mushrooms. After getting married in 2012, Nick lived in Shanghai, China, for three years and visited 12 different countries to explore what the world had to offer. After returning home, Nick started finding ways to give back to his community in a local and meaningful way. After working in education for three years and serving on a school board, he was drawn into the world of sustainable living and urban farming by a friend for more than 10 years, Lance Ramm. This was the beginning of R & R Cultivation.
In 2018, Nick and Lance started their first mushroom grow in Nick’s basement. They relied on their 4’ by 4’ grow tent to get them started selling mushrooms at local farmers markets. From the beginning, they had tremendous success. By 2019, Nick and Lance were ready to expand into a warehouse and increase their mushroom production eight-fold.
In two short years, Nick and Lance took R & R Cultivation from a small basement operation to a fully scaled urban farm. Today, they supply fresh, gourmet mushrooms to most co-ops and farmers markets in the area in addition to Lunds & Byerlys.
Nick and Lance’s operation would not be here today without the involvement of many family members for which they are eternally grateful. Nick’s mother bought the entire second basement set-up which allowed for increased production. Nick’s father worked alongside him to design and build his grow rooms and get the business operational. Nick’s sister, Michelle Wheeler, is a junior partner at professional Marketing Services and has been the sole reason why the company’s website, online presence and CSA have been so successful.
Lance’s father leads the operation’s block-making process and is a crucial part of the company’s success. Lance’s mother stamps the farmers market bag, cleans once a week and always brings brownies to help boost morale!
Mark and Suzanne Schmiesing
Mark and Suzanne started out by crop farming the 80 acres they live on, in addition to finishing pigs with their parents. The Schmiesings put up their first greenhouse and began growing vegetables and flowers for their family while still working full-time jobs. After 10 years, Mark began to farm more acres full time and took over the hog business. The family expanded its greenhouse operation to three greenhouses. Soon after, Suzanne also started to work on the farm full time growing plants and designing wedding flowers.
The Schmiesings grow corn and soybeans and they also raise a few head of hogs and beef cattle for their family. They raise chickens for eggs and run their greenhouses. The family business designs wedding, funeral and special occasion floral arrangements.
Mark heads up crop farming and livestock management. He also maintains the greenhouse equipment. Suzanne is the head greenhouse grower and operations manager. She helps with livestock and harvest. The couple's son Isaac is a full-time mechanic at Kruse Motors and farms with his parents. The Schmiesings’ son Alex graduated from high school this year, helps with greenhouse maintenance and uses his woodworking skills to make gifts to sell in the greenhouse. Mark and Suzanne’s daughters, Emily and Annika, stay busy working in the greenhouse, running the grain cart at harvest and dealing with customers.
The family offers greenhouse classes for adults and children and anyone looking to learn more about horticulture.
The family’s church and faith are very important to them. They lead the Wabasso Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Wabasso High School and serve in a variety of ways at their church. The Schmiesing children participate in mission trips, handling technical aspects of livestream church events and providing music during services.
Doug and Lorie Kirtz Family
Doug grew up helping his father on the farm throughout his high school and college years. In 1989, Doug started his own swine operation with 70 sows, farrow-to-finish. In 1991, Doug increased the size of his sow herd to 250 and began selling pigs when they were weaned at about 20 days old. Doug and Lorie were married in 1993. Three years later, the sow herd was increased to 525 sows and the Kirtzes formed Kirtz Farms Incorporated, and continued to sell wean pigs.
Today, the family still has about 525 sows weaning on a five-week cycle. Doug works full time with the day-to-day management of the pigs. He takes care of breeding, farrowing, and baby pig care. Lorie works off the farm at Ameriprise Financial and fills in when needed with pig care and weaning. The couple’s children, Seth, Eli and Sadie, help with weaning, washings, shots, laundry and other chores. High school students are hired to help on an as-needed basis.
The Kirtzes are involved in the Renville County Pork Producers and committees of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association. Seth has earned an Eagle Scout ranking and Eli is currently working toward his. The family of five are members of the FFA and FFA alumni with the Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart School. Doug is currently president of the McLeod Co-op Power Association board, Lorie is an EMT with the Buffalo Lake Ambulance and secretary of the Buffalo Lake Area Business Association. The family is also involved with many activities at their church.
Donahue’s Greenhouse Family
Donahue’s Greenhouse was purchased in 1972 as a chrysanthemum business. The mum fields contained many greenhouses and in the 1980s the Donahues started to specialize in clematis. The family business now ships over 800,000 clematis plants to other greenhouses and garden centers. The family propagates and grows their own small plants.
The Donahues have expanded their retail garden center over the years as well; they now grow over four acres of a wide variety of plants they ship from their Faribault location each spring. The Donahues currently maintain five acres of greenhouse space between the family’s Faribault location, and one in Morristown.
Many family members own and operate the business. Lois Donahue Cleary is retired but still retains part ownership. Mark, Jim, Tim and Mick are all co-owners and are responsible for greenhouse operations. Co-owner Mary Donahue is in charge of accounts payable; Kathy Donahue Nass is co-owner and office manager. Julie Donahue Zweber is a co-owner and retail manager. Dan and Phil Zweber handle growing operations and Victoria Nass works as an administrative assistant for the business.
All members of the family are involved in many local activities including Relay For Life, Ruth’s House of Hope, Divine Mercy Catholic School, Bethlehem Academy and the Faribault American Legion. Julie and Phil were named Southern Minnesota Big Couple of the Year in 2019 by the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
Dallas and Amy Knobloch Family
The Knobloch family farm was started by Dallas’ great-grandfather who purchased it in 1946. Dallas’ dad took over in 1964 and Dallas started farming with his father in 2002.
The Knoblochs have a cattle feedlot finishing operation along with cow/calf pairs. They raise corn, alfalfa and some small grains. Dallas partners with neighbors on feeding cattle and working the land. He buys the majority of their feedlot cattle privately, working with West River and local cow/calf operators. He also purchases commodities and takes care of the feeding and management of the feedlot. Amy handles the accounting work, record keeping, runs errands and helps process cattle. The couple’s son, Tory, is the cow/calf operator, feeds cattle, raises 4-H cattle, and handles other chores around the farm. The Knoblochs’ daughter, Claire, feeds the bucket calves, raises 4-H cattle, helps with the cow/calf operation, raises chickens and helps process the cattle.
The family is active in the Blue Ribbon 4-H Club and Dallas is a member of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and the Farm Bureau. Dallas is a Rock County Fair livestock supervisor and a trustee of the Frank Boon Trust. Amy volunteers at school and church events. Tory is a member of the H-BC FFA Chapter and his high school football and trap teams. Claire is active in volleyball, basketball and track.
The Peterson family farm began in the early 1900s as a diversified farm producing products for the family’s grocery store in Eveleth. The farm was divided in 1970 due to the construction of highway 53 that split the farm in half. At that time, the farm’s timber was harvested and the forest land was enrolled in a forest stewardship plan. In the 1980s, Mark Peterson planted his first berries and in 1990 he had his first market harvest of blueberries.
Mark is the third generation of his family to steward the land his grandfather homesteaded. In 1992, he was recognized as Tree Farmer of the Year by the Minnesota Timber Producers Association for outstanding land stewardship.
While the farm started with blueberries, it has since expanded to include many other types of berries in addition to maple syrup and Christmas wreath and garland production. Mark and Carol Peterson are the owner/operators of the farm. Their daughter, Robin Lindseth, and grandchildren, Julia and Zack, are all involved in the farm, especially during the busy berry picking and maple syrup seasons. Carol’s children Tom, Dawn and Rich also pitch in to help when needed.
Mark was the ag teacher at five schools in St. Louis County. He worked with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on the farm’s forest stewardship plan and monitors their lake for water level and quality. Mark serves as chair of the family’s lake association. Mark is on the board of the local soil and water conservation district and is very involved in the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.
Meierbachtol Farms had humble beginnings on the rolling hills along the Minnesota River in Scott County. Martin Meierbachtol was able to expand the acreage and was the patriarch of this third-generation farm. His son, Ray, hauled cattle to South St. Paul and brought farm goods and groceries back to Belle Plaine. Ray later expanded into a grain-hauling business and longer trips to haul livestock. Ray and his sons, John, Donald, and Dale, farmed side-by-side until Ray’s retirement. Then the brothers took over the operation.
The Meierbachtols’ farm enterprise consists of corn, soybeans and a pastured cow/calf business. They also raise Holstein steers at another farm site near Blakely. The farm operation consists of the three brothers and their families: John and Kate; Donald and Margaret and their sons, Mark and Michael; and Dale and Kim and their son, Adam.
All family members work together, keeping lines of communication open in good times and bad. They prioritize the workload every day and are very thankful for good family and friends.
The Meierbachtols have worked with Scott County SWCD to implement many conservation practices on their farm to reduce soil erosion in the bluff areas including terraces and water sediment basins.
The family was very involved in FFA and 4-H and are now members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau and Minnesota Corn Growers Association. John and Donald are members of the Scott County Pork Producers Association. Dale is a supervisor for Blakely Township. The families were awarded the Scott County Conservationists of the Year Award in 2006 and 2013. They are very active in their church.
The Mertz family’s Iron Shoe Farm was established in April 2013. The farm is a diversified operation providing Hereford beef, along with heritage breed pork and pasture-raised chickens to consumers and restaurants locally and throughout the Twin Cities. The family operates an on-farm store and market and works with other producers to support their local food system.
Iron Shoe Farm is a sustainable farm and is home to pasture-raised Hereford cattle, pasture-raised Mangalista and Red Wattle pigs, pasture-raised chickens and laying hens. The Mertzes grow microgreens, edible flowers, vegetables and herbs.
Carla Mertz is the farm’s owner/operator and her husband, David, handles many of the farm’s daily operations. Carla and David’s daughter, Morgan, also handles many of the day-to-day chores and handles deliveries. Morgan is off to Adrian College in Michigan this fall to study chemistry.
The Mertzes continue to support local foods and the work of the Minnesota Farmers Union. The family collaborates with local chefs and hosts an annual dinner on the farm to promote agritourism. Carla has made many presentations on local food production for the Sustainable Farming Association, MFU, the University of Minnesota and the 100 Rural Women’s Group. She also serves on the Sherburne County Extension Committee.
Schauer Farms Incorporated
Schauer Farms was homesteaded in 1888 and has been under the Schauer name since. Five generations of the family have called the farm home.
Today, the Schauer farm is a three-enterprise operation. The family raises about 350 head of replacement dairy heifers for clients in the surrounding area. The Schauers also custom raise about 70 crossbred beef calves for a beef client. The family’s cropping enterprise consists of 400 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and orchard hay and the third part of the operation consists of one-and-a-half acres of cut flower production under the name of Milkhouse Flowers.
Dale and Jeanne Schauer are both semi-retired, living on the farm and helping wherever they are needed. Tim and Dawn Schauer and their family also live on the farm and are the day-to-day managers. The couple’s three sons help with chores while also discovering their own career paths. Taylor is a power lineman in Glencoe; Adam will be a junior this fall at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls studying crop and soil science and Owen will be a sophomore at Glencoe Silver Lake High School. Owen is planning to obtain an agriculture degree after school.
The Schauers are devoted members of First Lutheran Church in Glencoe, serving on various boards and participating in services. Dale has been a New Auburn Township Supervisor for 17 years and Tim has served 15 years on the Glencoe Co-op Board, now serving as president. Tim and Dawn’s family are members of the Sibley County Holstein Association and Tim, Dawn and Adam are members of the Sibley-Nicollet Corn Growers Association. Dawn currently serves on the Sibley County Extension Committee.
The Schauer family are big supporters of and participants in Sibley County 4-H, including serving as adult leaders and members of the Weeping Willows 4-H Club.
Glen and Sadie Frericks
Glen and Sadie started farming in 2005 on Sadie’s family’s farm in northeastern Minnesota. The couple moved their herd of 40 cows to Stearns County in 2006 and purchased a farm of their own a year later.
Today, the Frerickses milk 100 cows and raise their own replacements. In the winter, they house their cows in a tie-stall barn with a sand-bedded free stall barn in their future. In the summer, the cows and heifers graze on 100 acres of perennial pasture. The Frerickses own 20 acres and rent another 55 acres of cropland on which they rotate silage corn and alfalfa, all protected by cover crops.
Glen and Sadie are the owner/operators of their farm. Their children Dan, Monika and Daphne help with a variety of chores.
The Frerickses are members of Adley Creek 4-H Club and enjoy showing at the Stearns County Fair. They are also members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation and Land O’ Lakes Cooperative. Sadie serves on the boards of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association and Cooperative Network.
Wayne Brothers Family Farm
Brothers Greg, Brian, David and Tom Wayne have been farming together for about 40 years. Their grandfather, Manford Wayne, purchased the farm in 1943 in Berlin Township. A few years later, Manford’s son Lyle, the Wayne brothers’ dad, purchased another farm across the road in Summit Township. Lyle’s farm is now the home farm for the Wayne Brothers operation. Lyle retired from farming in the mid-1990s.
Together the Wayne brothers farm 6,000 acres of corn and soybeans. They practice conservation tillage on their corn ground and have been no-tilling soybeans since 1992 in standing corn stalks. They also use cover crops after their corn has been harvested.
Greg’s son, Nathan, and David’s two sons, Dustin and Alex, are now part of the farming operation. Each family member has their own responsibilities. Greg, David and Tom handle spring planting and fall harvest. Brian, Nathan, Dustin and Alex handle the tillage and herbicide applications. They also dry the corn crop and deliver the crops to local elevators. The family gets help from friends in the spring and fall with additional tillage.
The Wayne family supports a variety of agriculture-related efforts in their community. They are members of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Association. They’ve donated to FFA’s Camp Courage for many years. Family members participate in a variety of local organizations including the Ellendale Economic Development Council and Ellendale and Geneva Commercial Clubs. Brian served on the Ellendale School Board. Family members are also members of their respective church councils.
Grandpa George and Gramma Mae Hufford moved to the farm north of Morris in the fall of 1948. They had two children, Dick and Jim. Dick returned to the farm after the service and after working at a telephone company. There had always been livestock on the farm, mostly cattle and hogs, but at times there were chickens, turkeys and sheep.
Dick and his wife, Myrna, and their family farm about 2,000 acres of owned and rented cropland, pasture and CRP land. The Huffords grow corn, soybeans, wheat and some hay. The farm is home to about 110 beef cows. The family also feeds about 200 head of cattle at a time and finish about 3,000 hogs per year.
Dick and Myrna are retired and their sons and their families now operate the farm. Son Jeff works full time on the farm. His son, Mitch and his wife, Katie, have two boys, Carson and Easton. Dick and Myrna’s son Kirby works full time on the farm and he and his wife, Julie, have a son, Taylor, who is married to Amanda. Taylor is very involved in the cow/calf part of the operation and works at the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center. Kirby and Julie’s daughter, Makenna, is also involved in the cow/calf part of the business and will attend North Dakota State University this fall.
Dick Hufford served on the local school board and was a big supporter of agriculture and FFA programs at the family’s school. He served in the National Guard and was township treasurer for many years. Dick and Myrna were involved in the West Central Cattlemen organization. Jeff volunteers with Pheasants Forever and the local cattle and pork producer groups. He is also Morris township clerk and a director on the Agrilite Electric Co-op Board.
Kirby and Julie are very busy with the West Central Cattlemen organization and Kirby is involved with the Stevens County Pork Producers and is a director for Donnelly Co-op. Julie is co-owner of Visible Changes Salon in Morris and helps with tasks on the farm. Mitch and Katie are very busy with their kids’ school activities including wrestling. Mitch is involved with the local West Central Cattlemen and the corn growers.
Scott and Sue Smith Family
In 1931, Scott’s great-grandparents, Joseph and Katherine Clark, purchased the farm in Torning Township. In 1948, Scott’s grandparents, Francis and Margaret Smith, moved from Stevens County to Swift County with their four sons. Francis purchased the farm from Margaret’s parents. In 1988, Scott moved from Montana to the family farm to help his grandmother after his grandfather died. Scott and Sue were married in 1995 and have two children, Dylan and Jenna.
The Smith family raises corn, soybeans and alfalfa. They also run a cow/calf operation. The cattle business started in 2005 with cattle that Dylan and Jenna had shown in 4-H.
Scott passed away last October from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. Up until his death, Scott was the head of the farm operation. Sue, along with their children, continues to run the farm and carry on Scott’s legacy. Sue works at Glacial Plains Cooperative in DeGraff and Dylan is employed at CVEC in Benson. Working close to home allows them to still work on the farm. Jenna is a senior at South Dakota State University majoring in agricultural business and helps on the farm when home from college.
When the kids were active in 4-H, Scott served on the 4-H livestock board and Sue volunteered on the 4-H advisory board. They were also club leaders. Scott was a member of the Swift County Fair board for nine years, spending countless hours before and after the fair helping to make the county fair what it is today. Scott also served on the Torning Township board for 21 years and the DeGraff Fire Department for 28 years. He was chief for 10 of those years. Scott took great pride in serving the community he lived in.
The Smith family are members of the Glacial Ridge Cattlemen’s Association, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and are involved in many community events. Sue is a member of the Swift County Fair board and the Swift County Open Beef Show Committee. Dylan serves on the Torning Township board and is a member of the DeGraff Fire Department. Jenna has been the Swift County 4-H program intern the past couple of summers.
Middendorf Family Farm
Paul Middendorf’s parents, Joe and Lou, purchased the central Minnesota farm in the early 1970s. Paul and Bonnie purchased the farm from them in the fall of 1981. They built a new dairy barn and began milking Holstein cows.
The Middendorfs’ son Jeremy and his wife Hope and their family have started to take over more of the responsibility of running the farm and plan to someday take over its operation.
Paul and Bonnie’s daughters, Jessie, Megan and Katelyn, along with their families help when needed with field work, baling hay, picking rocks and other chores. The Middendorfs’ son Cody and his family help with daily chores if a day off is needed.
Bonnie served on the American Dairy Association board and the local dairy princess committee for many years. Jessie, Megan and Katelyn were all Todd County Dairy Princesses. Cody and Katelyn showed some of the farm’s registered Holstein dairy cattle in 4-H at the Todd County Fair and Minnesota State Fair. All the Middendorf children were involved in FFA.
Dale and Jessica Vatthauer Family
Dale and Jessica moved to rural Wheaton in 2002. Three years later, the couple started raising crossbred beef cattle because they both had grown up with cattle. Since 2019, the family’s small herd is now all purebred Simmental. The Vatthauers manage a cow/calf operation along with selling finished home-raised beef to local consumers through a locker plant. They also background-raise purebred breeding gilts. They show their cattle and swine at local, regional and state shows.
The Vatthauer farm is named 4G Cattle. It’s named after Dale and Jessica’s four children whose first names all begin with the letter G. The kids started showing Brown Swiss dairy steers from their grandparents’ farm. Now they show their own beef breeding stock.
The couple’s oldest daughter, Gracie, works at PRO Co-op in Iowa as a marketing and communications specialist. Daughter Gentrie attends South Dakota State University. Their son Gradie will be a freshman at Lake Area Technical College in Watertown, S.D., and son Grissum will be a junior at Wheaton High School this fall. All the children play a key role in the success of the farm.
Dale is a district sales manager for Kibble Equipment and a member of the Traverse County Fair Board. Jessica is the FFA adviser and vo-ag instructor for Wheaton Area Schools. She volunteers with 4-H, FFA and area open class livestock shows. All the Vatthauer children have been involved in 4-H and FFA and have shown cattle in the open class beef show at the Minnesota State Fair.
Darrel and Gwen Klein
Darrel’s parents, Alfred and Freida, purchased the farm in 1948. They raised various livestock with their three boys. Alfred passed away in 1960. Darrel entered the army in 1970. He came back home to farm, but he rented other land, not the home farm. His brother was farming the family’s land. Darrel also worked at the local feed mill in Mazeppa and drove a school bus. He started farming full time in 1974 and took over the family farm in 1978. He raised feeder pigs and fat cattle. In 1980, Darrel and Gwen were married, and they raised two sons. Darrel and Gwen purchased the home place in 1983 and started a farrow-to-finish operation along with a herd of beef cattle.
The Kleins got out of the hog business in 2002 and the beef cattle in 2013. The family now grows corn and soybeans on 500 owned acres and 1,200 rented acres. The Kleins’ oldest son, Jason, is married to Abby and they have three daughters. Jason is owner of Turbo’s Repair in Mazeppa. He helps on the farm when needed, The Kleins’ youngest son, Cory, is owner of Klein Trucking in Mazeppa. He helps in the spring and fall and hopes to take over the farm from his parents.
Darrel and Gwen are members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Mazeppa. Darrel belongs to the American Legion and Honor Guard in Mazeppa and the VFW in Zumbro Falls. Gwen works full time at Mayo Clinic.
Les and Brenda Schwartz purchased their property about 20 years ago and Les’s brother-in-law farmed the tillable acreage for a few years. Les and Brenda started tapping maple trees about 15 years ago, tapping 29 trees the first year. Each year, the Schwartzes tapped more trees until about five years ago they had reached 400 trees. They decided then it was time to stop expanding.
Les and Brenda produce between 100 and 150 gallons of pure maple syrup annually. They also tap birch trees and make birch syrup. The couple still collects sap in buckets.
Tree tapping requires a lot of labor. Les’s brothers, Larry and Doug, help with tapping, collecting the sap and cooking it down. The Schwartz family boils the sap using wood they collect from their woodlands and from a nearby mill. Les’s sister, Barb, helps with sap collection and canning the syrup. Les and Brenda’s sons, Eric and Rory, along with their families, also provide help. Other relatives provide labor when time allows. The family also grows vegetables and apples for their local farmers market.
The Schwartzes have hosted many groups on their property that want to learn more about making syrup. For the past eight years the family has hosted the 10th grade class at Henning High School to help with tapping trees. The Schwartzes have hosted 4-H clubs, Boy Scouts, garden clubs and other groups and individuals. They’ve made many presentations to various organizations about making maple syrup.
Les is the current president of the Wadena Area Growers Association/Wadena Farmers Market. The Schwartzes are members of Minnesota Grown and an authorized vendor for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
Dan and Amber Lewer Family
Dan grew up on the family farm with his grandparents, Orlin and Ruth, and his parents, Randy and Mary. The Lewer farm has been in the family since 1897 and became a Century Farm while Orlin was still farming. Orlin ran a dairy operation until 1977, then raised beef steers and registered Spotted Poland China hogs. Randy and Mary ran a farrow-to-finish hog operation until 2003. Dan grew up very active on the farm with livestock chores, crop farming, helping with the equipment and more.
Dan and Amber started farming with six calves and a flock of chickens while assisting with crop farming 340 acres of corn. In 2011, they built a 2,400 head confinement hog barn which is currently contract finished. Over the past decade the Lewers have grown their dairy steer herd to over 100 head.
In 2016, Dan and Amber moved into the farmhouse and Dan’s parents built a new home on the land so now both families live on the farm.
Dan and Amber’s children, Sydney, Mikayla, and Jacob, are active in 4-H and school sports. Sydney is also involved in FFA and helps with chores and the animals, wherever she is needed. The family has added a variety of animals to the farm including horses, goats, laying hens, ducks, rabbits, and of course, their cats and dogs.
Dan’s grandparents, Gerald and Betty Hullopeter, owned the Meat Market in New Richland for 17 years. The Lewers have been able to follow in their footsteps and were able to buy Morgan’s Meat Market from Dean and Barb Morgan in New Richland in May 2021. They are very excited to continue to promote their farm to table experience and enjoy this great-tasting new adventure!
The Lutz family farm is a Century Farm that is operated by three brothers, John, Mark and Leo. The brothers’ great-grandfather, Joe, was the original owner. The brothers’ father and mother, Fran and Lucille, retired from farming in 1982. Mark and John took over the farm at that time. They farmed 350 acres and milked 60 Holstein cows. Mark and John also raised 60 sows and sold 1,200 feeder pigs annually from 1987 until 2000.
In 2010, the partnership between John and Mark split: John took over farming the land and raising steers and Mark continued the dairy. The farm was a dairy until 2018. John also currently raises 80 feeder steers and Mark raises 15 Hereford cows. The farm is 240 acres of owned land and 50 acres of rented land. The brothers plant corn, soybeans and hay. Leo operates a custom butcher shop on the farm: Lutz Cuts. He processes more than 250 head of cattle per year.
John’s wife, Carol, assists with the cattle and wraps cuts of meat in the butcher shop. John and Carol have five children and eight grandchildren. Their daughter, Jenny, helps take care of the cattle. John and Mark’s nephews Luke, Mark and John as well as their niece Laura help a good deal on the farm. Mark and his wife, Denise, have five children and five grandchildren. Their daughters, Claire and Rose, are involved in raising the Herefords. Denise was involved with the dairy calves when the farm was a dairy. Other family members help whenever they are able.
John is very involved with his grandchildren and extended family members, helping them learn about agriculture. Mark volunteers with St. John’s parish. Mark and Denise are bus drivers for Forest Lake school district. Denise also works in the cafeteria between routes. Leo likes to travel and volunteers with Passionist Volunteers around the United States. In addition to missionary projects, the family supports Farm Bureau and FFA.
Tom’s grandfather farmed near Odin in Watonwan County until 1947 when his family moved to a farm south of St. James. The Engs rented land up until about 1967 when Tom’s father made his first purchase of land. In 1970 they added the home farm, moved there and the family continues to farm the land.
After high school Tom went off to college and then worked for Ziegler Caterpillar while farming part-time on his own. In 2007, Tom’s father passed away suddenly from an accident. Tom and his wife, Martha, moved back to St. James to take care of Tom’s mother and work the farm. The Engs remodeled the home on a building site just south of the home farm that Tom had purchased with his father years earlier. Over the years, the Engs have purchased more land and equipment and have expanded their operation.
Tom’s cousin, Mark Saunders, had been working for many years with Tom’s father on the farm. As Tom transitioned into full-time farming, Tom and Mark farmed the land together. Currently the cousins, who also do custom work, work together with their separate operations of corn and soybeans.
Tom and Martha have three grown children. Their son, Eric, had been helping quite a bit on the farm but about a year ago Eric and his wife, Jolleen, moved to Billings, Montana. He plans to return for fall harvest to help. Tom and Martha’s other children, Becky and Brian, are both married and live out of state. Becky and her husband have three children. Martha has been working remotely from home for the past 13 years; she helps around the farm running errands, delivering meals and helps move equipment when needed.
Tom is chairman of the Watonwan County Corn and Soybean Growers Board and serves as a Long Lake township supervisor. He serves on the county FSA committee, Watonwan County planning and zoning board, is a board member of First Lutheran Church, and president of the St. James Opera House Restoration Board.
Jeremy and Karensa Tischer
The Tischer farm is a third-generation operation that dates to the 1940s. Jeremy and Karensa are the third generation of the farm that was started by Jeremy’s grandfather, Richard Kruse Sr. Richard broke most of the home farm out of prairie and was instrumental in establishing good drainage at the farm and in the county. Richard was also one of the forefathers of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative.
Jeremy’s father, Doug, and his uncle, Richard Kruse Jr., retired from farming in 2011. Currently, Jeremy and Karensa farm 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, and sugar beets. Jeremy, along with his cousin Eric Kruse, long-time employee Mitch Reiff, Jeremy’s father, Doug, and family friend Russell Henderson handle the majority of the fieldwork.
Karensa works full-time for Lakes Country Service Cooperative. She keeps the household running, handles yard work and makes financial decisions for the farm.
The Tischers’ son, Hayden, loves to run the machinery, especially at fall harvest. He also picks rock and mows—which he doesn’t like as much. Jeremy and Karensa’s daughter, Sydney, likes to hang out in the tractors and combines and has mowing responsibilities.
Jeremy is a trustee for the Minn-Dak Sugar Political Action Committee and serves on the board of the Clay/Wilkin Corn and Soybean Growers Association.
Sobeck Brothers Farms
Gary and Jim Sobeck’s parents, Eugene and Arlene, purchased the family’s farm in 1950. Eugene milked 26 cows. In 1980, Gary and Jim rented the farm and milked 60 cows. Eight years later, the brothers purchased their uncle’s farm and milked 60 cows there as well. In 1995, Gary and Jim purchased their parents’ farm. Twenty years later, the brothers built a new barn, installed Lely robotic milkers, and began milking 260 cows three times a day.
The Sobeck brothers raise all the calves on their farm. All replacement animals are raised on the brothers’ heifer farm and they finish out steer calves on a steer farm. The brothers grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and barley. Crops that aren’t used to feed their cattle are dried and stored on the farm and then sold.
Gary’s son, Chris, and Jim’s son-in-law, Alex, are both involved in all aspects of the operation.
Gary volunteers as a youth snowmobile training instructor. He marks, signs and grooms Winona County snowmobile trails. Jim and three others launched a new farm organization they call Promoting Modern Agriculture that raises funds to offer $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors toward the cost of college.
Spike’s Farm, Kurt and Judy Spike
Spike’s Farm was purchased in 1973 by Kurt’s parents, Walt and Kay Spike. Walt and Kurt started milking cows and growing crops shortly after the farm was purchased.
In 1980, a partnership was formed between Walt and Kay and Kurt and Judy. The families worked together and updated their barn to increase their dairy herd to 65 cows. Kurt and Judy took over the milking and field work in 1980. Walt continued to help when needed.
The Spikes grew their herd to be one of Wright County’s top dairy herds. They received numerous awards from Kemps for top quality milk and milk production between 1981 and 1995. Kurt milked cows until 1996 and then the cows, along with pigs the family raised, were sold. The Spikes transitioned to a corn-fed beef and crop operation that is still running today. The family sells beef, along with pork and chicken, directly to the public.
Kurt and Judy continue to be very involved in the operation. Judy worked off the farm and helped with milking, fieldwork, record keeping and the farm’s website. The couple has two sons, Kris and Jon. Both sons work off the farm but lend a hand when needed. Kris joined Kurt in the beef business in 2003 and in 2019, Kris’s son, Hunter, reintroduced pigs to the farm. Kris’s daughter Kolby helps farrow and raise the pigs for fair prospects, feeders and direct market pork. Chickens were added to the business last year. Kris’s oldest daughter, Lily, helps with the farm’s record keeping and website; she’s been an officer for the Buffalo FFA for the past two years. Lily won the state FFA award in agricultural sales twice and heads to Iowa State University this fall majoring in ag business.
Gary and Kari Goplen Family
Goplen Florida Creek Farms is a family farm in western Minnesota, near Canby. Gary’s grandfather and father both farmed and Gary joined them in the operation after his high school graduation. Through Gary’s early farming career, the farm consisted mostly of cropland, a 500-head feedlot and a farrow-to-finish operation. In 1995, the first beef cows were purchased for a 4-H project and the Goplen farm became a cow/calf operation as well.
Today, the farm consists of 1,350 acres of cropland primarily growing corn, soybeans and alfalfa. The family also owns 130 acres of pasture for the 100 cow/calf pairs.
Gary and Kari live on the farm and are active in all aspects of it. They have four children: Terra, Jared, Kelsey and Tyler. Terra and her husband, Tim, along with their three children live in Hospers, Iowa, but return to the farm to help in the fall. Jared and his wife, Marissa, live on an acreage in Dawson with their daughter. Kelsey is a teacher in Pipestone and returns to help at harvest, and Tyler is a student at North Dakota State University majoring in ag business and animal science. Both Jared and Tyler are involved in the farm while employed off the farm.
Gary and Kari have been involved in local 4-H, serving as club leaders, on the leaders council, and livestock committees. Gary is a member of the Midwest Cattlemen Association, serves on the county zoning board, the SDSP board and the board at Covenant Church. Kari has been employed at St. Peter’s School for 14 years and Regnier Auction Company for 23 years. All the Goplen children were involved in 4-H and FFA while growing up. They also served as ambassadors and beef princesses with the Midwest and Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Associations.
2020 Farm Families of the Year
The 2020 Farm Families were recognized virtually by University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel, Gov. Tim Walz and other University and industry leaders.
Reviewed in 2021