Sponsored By
The Farmer Logo

Volunteer for the soulVolunteer for the soul

Waseca’s Farmamerica benefits from A Year to Volunteer’s mission.

Kevin Schulz

July 5, 2023

5 Min Read
Woman in foreground with two people at fence behind her
FILL THE CUP: Shar Roos and her husband, Phil, started A Year to Volunteer as a way to fill their retirement, see the country and give something back. With the completion of their work at Farmamerica in June, the group has completed 423 workdays and more than 43,000 volunteer hours, covering 22 states.Photos by Kevin Schulz

Farmamerica near Waseca, Minn., relies on area volunteers to help preserve and tell the evolving story of Minnesota agriculture.

Farmamerica recently received a major boost when 15 RVs bringing 28 volunteers from 11 states showed up for a two-week stay at the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center to help spruce up some of the structures on the grounds.

As the old adage goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” rings true for this flood of volunteers to Farmamerica. A Year to Volunteer is an organization aimed to provide of fleet of RV’ers to volunteer for projects throughout the year and throughout all 50 states.

Jenny Delnay, Farmamerica program director, knew the center that was established in 1978 needed some TLC. It just so happens that her parents, Lyle and Kathy Luppes, had volunteered with A Year to Volunteer at Sam Houston Jones State Park in Louisiana to help repair damage done by Hurricane Laura a few years back.

two people in cherry picker working on eaves

Farmamerica buildings and fences endure weather and time, and Delnay and her Farmamerica colleagues made a to-do list for the Y2V team to attack when they showed up in early June. Twenty-one projects populated the list; the largest job gave the blacksmith shop a facelift. The re-siding and trim painting on that building alone took some of the crew the full two weeks.

Other projects completed: the group scraped, power-washed, primed and repainted a two-story 1930s house; reinforced and repainted a cow fence; scraped and painted a bee hut; repainted one-room country schoolhouse and outhouse; repaired structural issues in the AgriHall; and rebuilt a fence bordering a farm pond.

“It’s always a balance of [whether] we want a few big things or a whole lot of small things,” says Shar Roos, who started A Year to Volunteer with her husband, Phil. “We’ve done projects where we finished 21 items on our list. And this place we’re only finishing about nine — but we’re OK with that, because we did a lot of big things.”

In addition to the valued work of volunteers, Farmamerica benefits from donations of all sizes, but the most significant donations are the structures that populate the grounds. For example, the blacksmith shop came from Meriden, Minn.; the farmhouse from Waldorf, Minn.; the 1930s barn from south of Mankato, Minn., the schoolhouse from St. Mary Township in Waseca County; and the church from Nicollet County, Minn.

“They’ve kind of come in from all over the place to recreate this farming in stages around here,” Delnay says.

Spend retirement volunteering

Shar and Phil Roos started A Year to Volunteer in 2020, as the couple looked for an activity to fill their time in retirement. Phil retired as a captain in the U.S. Navy after a 36-year career, and Shar was in the finance industry. “Being in the Navy includes doing a lot of humanitarian work. You’re always helping out other countries, places and people that need it,” she says. “The finance industry can be kind of soul-sucking, and so I needed something extra to do to fill my soul and fill my cup back up.”

The couple set out to fill retirement by visiting every state, “but we wanted to do something with a purpose, something to have a reason to get up in the morning,” she says. The original intent was to visit and volunteer in all 50 states within a single year. Simple math and logistics made that nearly impossible; “We realized that 50 states in 52 weeks, you might get a day at each place.”

A task for everyone

Instead, Y2V organizes stints in communities where help is needed, and most stays are two weeks. Though most of the volunteers range between ages 50 and 80, 18-year-old Larry Seymour joined his aunt Cindy Klassen from California on the Farmamerica project. Shar Roos says one project even had a 3-year-old who helped her mother with raking leaves

woman and teen repair and paint fence

“If somebody wants to help, we’d love them to just come in with the ‘What can I do?’ attitude. If you have zero skills, but you can still rake, you can paint, you can clean, you can organize. We always find something for everyone to do here,” Roos says.

Personnel differ from job to job as personal schedules vary, and Roos says they may enlist help from individuals with specific skill sets to suit the needs of an upcoming job. Such is the case with the Farmamerica blacksmith shop. Knowing the project would need someone with contractor experience, Roos reached out to a gentleman with 47 years in the field to bring his expertise.

After the Farmamerica stint, Y2V will have completed 423 workdays and more than 43,000 volunteer hours, covering 22 states. Farmamerica is the 35th project. By the end of this year, the group will have completed jobs in 25 states.

To close out 2023, the Year to Volunteer crew will do jobs in North Dakota, Colorado and Utah.

Pay it forward

Fulfilling the Rooses’ reason for volunteering, Klassen sums it up: “If enough people pay it forward, the world would be better.”

More information on A Year to Volunteer can be found on the organization’s website, including how to volunteer or how to get your project added to the schedule.

Visit Farmamerica’s website to learn about its mission, upcoming events and to schedule a tour.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like