Eighty-four Minnesota families were recently honored as the 2019 Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota.
The farm families were recognized Aug. 8 during a ceremony held at Farmfest.
The families were chosen, one per county, by local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture.
A sampling of farmers and their contributions to agriculture follows. All the 2019 farm families are profiled at z.umn.edu/farmfam19
Benton County — Chmielewski Family
The Chmielewskis’ Stoney Brook Farms was purchased by Mark Chmielewskis in 2006 from his mother, Shirley. Mark is chief executive officer of the 800-acre operation. Of that, 600 acres are in vegetable production, growing asparagus, snap peas, green beans, sweet corn, winter squash and several different types of pumpkins. The family also raises field corn and soybeans.
Mark and his wife, Pam, operate a vegetable stand in St. Cloud. They also create a corn maze and pumpkin patch for visitors in the fall and provide farm tours to area schools and day care centers.
Mark runs the farm with his son, Brad. Brad’s wife, Ashley, helps with office work as well as planning and running the corn maze. Pam handles office work and runs the vegetable stand and pumpkin patch.
Stoney Brook Farms was recognized as the 600th farm in the state to be certified by the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program. The family is also involved with the farm-to-school effort and provides produce to area schools and day care centers. They also donate produce to Second Harvest Heartland and other charities and area fundraising efforts.
Blue Earth County — May Farm
Joseph and Katherine May came to the farm in 1865. The couple lived in a small brick house that was built in 1856 by the federal government for the Winnebago Reservation that was in place from 1855 to 1863. The Mays’ son, George, eventually took over the farm and in 1901 remodeled and enlarged the home, keeping the original, older part intact. The farm is where Jack and Lisa May and their family now call home.
The original May farm is still part of Jack and Lisa’s operation. Corn and soybeans are the main crops on the land, and the family raises contract-fed hogs for Wakefield Pork. The Mays have raised hogs for Wakefield since the early 1990s; they are among the earliest contract finishers for the company.
Jack and Lisa are the owners and operators of the farm. They have three daughters: Kathleen, Michelle and Colleen. Michelle is married to Chris Larson; Michelle is working to become the sixth-generation of the family to run the farm and Colleen is married to Russell Depuydt. Both spouses lend a hand at harvest and when needed in the hog operation. Jack’s parents, Gene and Pat, live just down the road.
The Mays are members of the Minnesota Corn and Minnesota Soybean Growers Associations. Jack was a long-time director with the former AgStar Financial; he’s also a member of the St. Clair School Board and was its representative on the Minnesota Valley Education District for 10 years. Michelle is on the board of the Blue Earth County Corn and Soybean Growers Association, serving as its secretary.
Chippewa County — Lee Family
The Lee farm has its roots in the 1940s; Jerry and Ruth Ann started farming by Dawson in 1974. Later they moved near Watson and continued to farm. Their son, Jason, joined the operation in 2009.
The Lees grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa and grass on about 1,150 acres. Jason, along with his wife, Autumn, and their children run a commercial cattle herd along with registered Herefords dating back to Jason’s grandfather’s original herd. The family has a commercial sheep flock and a flock of registered Katahdin hair sheep. They raise Great Danes and care for a few farm cats, chickens and ducks.
A big challenge for the Lees over the years has been the Chippewa River that flows through their land. The river and the erosion it can cause, especially after a major rainfall, resulted in the Lees making a significant investment in erosion control. The family worked with several local agencies to establish erosion control measures along the river bank. The effort was so successful that the Lees were honored as the 2018 Chippewa Soil and Water Conservation District Conservationists of the Year.
The Lees are involved in the Watson Lions Club and their local corn and soybean growers’ associations. They are active in their church, and the children participate in many different project areas through 4-H. Ruth Ann is involved in the Montevideo Cultural Diversity Council.
Cottonwood County — Steve and Cheryl Dick Family
Since Heinrich and Helena Schultz purchased the land from the railroad in 1875, the Dick farm has been family-owned and operated. Before what is now known as KBQ, Steve Dick’s late father, Elmer Dick, designed and built a 400-head finishing barn in the 1960s. After Steve graduated from high school, he slowly added contract finishing hogs while phasing out his farrowing pens and began crop farming. The farm was recognized as a Century Farm in 1982.
With more than a decade of farming under their belts, Steve and his brother, Jim, designed a new nursery and finishing barns. To achieve the goal of consistency with their animals, they knew they needed to expand. In 1994, KBQ Inc. (Knowledge Breeds Quality) was formed to help the farm focus on the genetic control of hogs to deliver lean meat, efficiency and maximum pig flow.
KBQ now employs 30 people, proudly providing pork to the upper Midwest and sending much of its supply to Hormel Foods, including some raised in loose sow standards.
KBQ continues the operation with the goal of continuous improvement in integrity of communication, and consistency in raising the best animals in a workplace culture that is family-oriented.
Steve and Cheryl have four children. Their son Travis is married to Katie and they have two girls, Edith and Elsie. Travis works as the construction manager at KBQ.
Their daughter Danielle is married to Holden Mai and they live and work in Manhattan, Kan., raising their daughter Lydia. S
teve and Cheryl’s third child, Tyler, lives in the Twin Cities and is getting his doctorate in Veterinary Science.
Their youngest daughter, Danica, lives in Mankato and is getting her degree in musical theater and business.
Freeborn County — Steve and Linda Kraushaar
The Kraushaar family farm was purchased in the 1940s by Steve’s grandfather. In the fall of 1973, Steve’s father and grandfather purchased a neighboring farm to help Steve and Linda launch their farming careers. Now their son, Sean, along with his wife, Krissy, and son, Liam, will take the reins in a partnership with Steve and Linda.
The Kraushaars also have a daughter, Lisa, and another son, Scott, who is married to Katie.
The Kraushaars currently grow 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans. They are innovative conservation stewards who were early developers of ridge tilling, which they continue to practice. The family is now incorporating cover crops on their land.
Community service is important to Steve and Linda. Steve is currently a member of the Cedar River Watershed representing Freeborn County. He’s also a member of the Minnesota Corn and Soybean Associations. Steve and Linda are both first responders, and Steve is a fireman with the Myrtle Fire Department. The Kraushaars are lifelong members of Trondheim Lutheran Church, where they serve on the church council and Linda teaches Sunday school. They also volunteer with Real Hope for the Hungry, a locally based organization that packages meals that are distributed locally and nationally.
Rock County — MD Partnership
Mark Dahl and Diane Kennedy were high school sweethearts, and both were members of the Sweet Strivers 4-H Club of Pipestone County. Diane showed sheep and Mark showed cattle. They both attended the University of Minnesota and were married in 1986.
After Diane finished medical school and a family medicine residency, the couple purchased a small farm near Luverne. In 1994, they bought their first four Angus cows, which became the foundation of their current herd. Mark and Diane have a small cow-calf operation, both purebred Angus and Maine Anjou.
Mark and Diane raised three daughters on their farm: Jessa, Kat and Ellen. Their children were all active in 4-H and loved showing cattle. All three have moved on to their own careers but help out on the farm when they can. Mark and Diane continue to be big supporters of 4-H by helping other kids with their projects, and Mark is a 4-H mentor and leader.
Mark has served on the livestock committee at the Rock County Fair and is always willing to introduce young people to the world of showing cattle. Diane spent many years coaching basketball, volleyball and softball and served as a 4-H leader. She is very active in her church and serves on multiple hospital boards and committees.
Swift County — Steve and Lisa Collins
Steve started farming with his parents in 1984 and Lisa joined the operation in 1996 when she and Steve were married. They are the fourth-generation farmers in the Murdock area of Swift County raising many different types of livestock.
Steve and Lisa, along with their children, Morgan, Matthew and Marc, run a corn-soybean-alfalfa rotation on 1,750 acres in Swift and Chippewa counties.
Steve and Lisa operate the farm together. Steve handles the day-to-day work and is a seed salesman for Nutrien Ag Solutions. Lisa takes care of the books and helps where needed. She also works part-time at Lamecker’s General Store.
Steve has served on the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg School Board for 10 years and the Sacred Heart Church Council for more than 10 years. He’s also been a member of the All Area Faith Community Church Council.
Steve has been with the Murdock Fire Department and Murdock First Responders for almost three decades. He is a past member of the Swift County Farm Bureau board, Swift County Corn and Soybean Growers board, and the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.
Lisa participates in her church’s Council of Catholic Women’s group. Both she and Steve are involved with local 4-H and FFA activities.
Todd County — Agua Gorda Cooperative, Javier and Marina Garcia
In 1993, the Garcias moved from Mexico to California. They worked with fruit, grapes, peaches and plums. In 2000, the family moved to Long Prairie in central Minnesota.
In 2012, the family began their farm with just half an acre. Two years later they expanded to six acres. Last year, the operation expanded to nine acres of land in production of a variety of fruits and vegetables including tomatillos, watermelon, cantaloupe, jalapeno and bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes. They also raise spinach, radishes, cilantro, peppers and tomatoes in a greenhouse.
All produce is sold through the Twin Cities-based Shared Ground Farmers’ Cooperative. Agua Gorda has been a member of Shared Ground for four years.
Javier runs the operation while maintaining full-time employment at Twin Eagle Dairy. His wife, Marina, is also employed at Twin Eagle Dairy and works part-time on the farm. The Garcias’ son, Carlos, works part-time on the farm while maintaining a job off the farm. Jose Garcia, Javier’s brother, is co-owner of the operation. He also owns and operates a grocery store and restaurant in Long Prairie called Mi Pueblito. Up to five others help out during the busy harvest season.
The Garcias are involved with the produce wholesaler Minnesota Fresh in Long Prairie and the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle farm-to-school program. The family enjoys giving presentations on their farming practices.
Winona County — Chosen Acres, Glen Haag Family
Chosen Acres is a third-generation family farm. It was started by Hilbert and Virginia Rupprecht in the late 1940s. The Rupprechts were joined by their son and daughter-in-law, David and Kathy, in the late 1960s. The farm was a dairy until 1977 when the cows were sold. Since then it’s been a cash crop and cattle business. Glen and Tammy joined the operation in 1993 and have continued to expand. The Haags currently raise corn, soybeans, hay and dairy beef.
Glen and Tammy run the farm but David and Kathy, Tammy’s parents, continue to be extremely involved. All of the Haag children — Morgan, Leanna, Carter, Connor, Ethan, Cassie, and Andrew — have helped out over the years. Carter and Connor are still involved with both the crops and cattle.
The Haags are active members of their community. Glen has been on the Utica Township Board, chairman of the Whitewater Watershed Farmer-Led Council and is currently chairman of the congregation at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lewiston.