Country Acres - September 4

Page 1


cres A

Friday, September 4, 2020

Volume 8, Edition 11

Focusing on Today’s Rural Environment


Brent Engle stands in front of the building housing his fabrication business, Engle Industrial. The building was formerly a Vikings training facility in Mankato before being moved to Sauk Centre in 2000.

A large piece of

Purple Pride history

Engle Industrial building is former Vikings practice facility BY ANDREA BORGERDING | STAFF WRITER

SAUK CENTRE – Tucked away on a side road just outside city limits, across from the former city dump and on property of a former junkyard stands a building with such size and magnitude that it commands awe and respect. What makes the building special is not PHOTO BY ANDREA BORGERDING only its size and overbuilt The Engle fabrication building stands 33 feet to the peak. stature, but also its former As a football training facility, it was completely open from operation. one end to another. Walls were added to section off the From 1965 until the shop for specialty areas. late 1990s, the building,


Publications The newspaper of today is the history of tomorrow.

This month in the


which now houses Engle Industrial of Sauk Centre, was a Vikings football summer practice facility in Mankato. “We were told the Vikings practiced in here during summer training camp,” Brent Engle said. “The scale of how massive this building is – you can’t even really see it until you get up close.” Engle is owner and operator of Engle Industrial. The business operates out of the 100- by

4 Signs of the fall Diane Leukam Column 5 Hundreds of heifers Cold Spring 8 Soil Science for Strawberries Raymond

250-foot steel structure, manufacturing and repairing tanker trailers and sewer and milk trucks. “We work on anything on trucks right now, from running gear to air bags,” Engle said. “We build everything from scratch.” Given the wide array of what Engle Industrial does on a daily basis, the large building suits the business’s needs in terms of space and utilization. The journey of how the building came to Sauk Centre from Mankato started in the late 1990s when Borchart Steel Inc. disassembled the build-

ing from the grounds of Mankato State University. The building sat in pieces for several years in the steel company’s salvage yard located in New Germany. In 2002, former owner of Engle Fabrication and Brent’s uncle, Mick Engle, was looking for a building to expand his steel fabrication business. Mick looked to his iron supplier for suggestions on where to find a steel building to fit his needs. “Jim Borchart (the owner) told Mick that he

13 What’s This? 14 Animals We Love! 16 Country Acres According to: Sauk Centre

18 Does a virus need a mascot ? Herman Lensing Column 19 A new farming venture Sartell 23 Country cooking

Engle page 2

Page 2 • Country Acres - Friday, September 4, 2020

ountry o u Cou Acres

Engle from front

Published by Star Publications Copyright 2014 522 Sinclair Lewis Ave. Sauk Centre, MN 56378 Phone: 320-352-6577 Fax: 320-352-5647 NEWS STAFF

Diane Leukam, Editor Ben Sonnek, Writer Herman Lensing, Writer Jennifer Coyne, Writer Evan Michealson, Writer Carol Moorman, Writer Natasha Barber, Writer Kayla Albers Sarah Colburn, Freelance Writer

Story ideas send to: SALES STAFF

Kayla Hunstiger, 320-247-2728 Missy Traeger, 320-291-9899 Tim Vos, 320-845-2700 Mike Schafer, 320-894-7825 Warren Stone, 320-249-9182 Jaime Ostendorf, 320-309-1988 Bob Leukam, 320-260-1248

PRODUCTION STAFF Pat Turner Amanda Thooft Nancy Powell Maddy Peterson CaraLee Feuchtenberger

Deadlines: Country Acres will be published the first Fridays of April, May, June, September, October and November, and the third Friday of every month. Deadline for news and advertising is the Thursday before publication.


Three 10-ton bridge cranes allow Engle Industrial to move and work on large tanks in the fabrication shop.

had a big one for him,” Engle said. Mick Engle was instantly sold on the salvaged structure. Prior to hauling the structure pieces to the site, the building site needed to be prepped. The site was formerly Gillies’ salvage yard where about 600 cars sat on 75 acres. Mick Engle purchased the site and began removing all the cars to repurpose the site. “In took two years to get it ready for a building,” Engle said. “We pushed dirt into this site to back fill. Below the hill of the building site was the original city dump.” In 2003, Brent Engle began the long process of hauling the massive I-beams from New Germany to Sauk Centre.

“I hauled almost every other day,” Engle said. “It took 27 loads and two months to get everything up here.” Some steel corners measuring up to 28- by 40-feet had to be cut in order to transport and be welded back together once on site. “Some of the loads weighed up to 130,000 pounds because of the massive beams I was hauling,” Engle said. “We got everything up here in pieces and Mick said to me, ‘There you go, now figure out how to put it back together.’” Brent commented, none of the pieces were marked so it took some time to figure out how it all went back together. “I knew the corners

had to be welded back together,” Engle said. “It took us two weeks just to weld 10 I-beam corners back together. The material is one-and-a-quarterinch thick.” To save on cost, Engle, along with two uncles (who own Engle Construction) did most of the construction project themselves. They started a cement mixing plant nearby and began pouring footings for the pillars. There are 10 pillars in the entire structure with 20 yards of concrete in each pillar footing. There are five iron rafters that span the entire length of the building. Each rafter spans 100 feet apart. The pillars span 50 feet apart with 2-foot I-beams connecting them. The steel

connects the 20 feet between beams. The building stands 33 feet high to the peak. The Engles had to rent cranes to set the beams when constructing the building. “We had one crane on each end and then one in the middle to hold the beam in place,” Engle said. The shop now includes five areas sectioned off according to specialized areas of fabrication. “This building was completely open from end to end,” Engle said. “We added walls to divide the building into sections for fabricating needs.” There is now a body shop including a paint booth, one area includes

a plasma cutting table and one large area includes three 10-ton bridge cranes to allow employees to work on large tanks. To further accommodate his needs, Engle also retrofitted the original crossbeams to allow room for overhead doors. There are 18 overhead doors in the entire building. “We redrilled holes for the cross beams,” Engle said. “The beams previously supported leantos off the side when it was in Mankato.” All the beams in the building used to be the color of Vikings purple. They were painted white when prepped for resale.

Engle page 3

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Engle from page 2


The shop is 250 feet long and stands 33 feet to the peak. It also includes 18 overhead doors. The building was a Vikings football training facility in Mankato from 1965 to the late 1990s.

Once the original building was reassembled, the Engles added an 80-foot section off the front of the building to provide room for office space and a conference room on the second floor. Today, Engle Industrial

and Cardinal Trucking both operate offices from that portion of the building. Cardinal also rents semi-trailer space. The original purpose of the new building was to allow for growth and to complement Mick

Engle’s original shop on Highway 71 of Sauk Centre. The original shop is now owned by Felling Trailers. The newer building east of town includes Engle’s signature railing wrapping around the

front of the building. Other features at the entrance include areas for water features, lampposts and a nearby walking bridge stretching over a ravine. The bridge is fabricated with Engle’s same signature railing.

Despite its age, the structure has held its value, if for no other reason than the materials used in its construction. “A person would never be able to afford to construct a building like this with the cost of ma-

terials now,” Engle said. “In 1965, people didn’t care about iron prices.” What started out as a building dedicated to Vikings football players has now become a piece of the Engle family’s steel fabrication legacy.

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Driving along a county vehicles – but, it could be road on Sunday afternoon, yours. All I can say is, give my husband, Don, and I yourself a little extra time got behind some farmers to reach your destination, pulling large forage boxes and please, let’s be careful loaded with corn silage. out there. We fell in behind a number When it comes to of other people. Around stories in Country Acres, each bend in the road, it seems like they run in we could see the drivers streaks. Lately, I have been in front of us impatiently running across a number of by Diane Leukam swerving out as far as they them where there is a lot of were able, to see if it was safe to pass research happening. Farmers must wear the people hauling silage. many hats and educating themselves My farming friends and family takes priority. Staying up to date on varhave been busy chopping corn silage, ious aspects of agriculture helps them and I hope you will look out for them survive in this crazy business. You will on the roads. read several stories in this issue and the Here is a passage from a column I next that are big on research. wrote in September 2016, and it bears I read an interesting article on Good repeating: “If you’re out on the high- News Network on Aug. 24 about anothways and byways, please beware of er research project. If these people were farm equipment and keep your distance. nearby, I would attempt to feature them I promise, whatever you’re driving will in Country Acres. be no match for it, and the few seconds Around here, we deal with predators you might save by not slowing down like coyotes. In Botswana in southern could cost someone’s life. I’ve hauled Africa, cattlemen also have to survive, many loads of silage on a busy state but, they deal with lions. They are curhighway, and the risks people are will- rently working on an experiment where ing to take to save those few seconds are they paint eyes on the behinds of their really quite stunning.” cattle. When combined with the tail of It’s always someone’s else’s son the animal, it is supposed to look like or daughter, mother or father in these a face and trick the lions into thinking they have been spotted. The cattle remind me a little bit of Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street. Farmers are resourceful everywhere. I hope it works! Speaking of predators, since I shared my wild turkey photo with you in July, we might as well keep it going with a photo of one of our resident Cooper’s Hawks – at least that’s what I think they are and I trust someone will let me know if they are actually something else. The pair is nesting nearby and has been in and out of our backyard all summer. This guy is quite handsome and has been feeding on chipmunks around the house lately. (If you’re wondering about the artificial tree on the left, we’ll just leave that story for another day.) As we move into cooler days and nights, I find myself hoping this fall will last a minimum of three months; longer would be OK. I love everything about PHOTO BY DIANE LEUKAM fall except for what I know is coming. A Cooper’s Hawk stands guard Aug. 30 When fall is cut short by winter, it feels on my deck in Sauk Centre. The birds like I’ve been robbed. feed on a variety of small animals such as I hope the weather is favorable for a chipmunks, which, I believe, is what this great harvest and that all goes well, and guy is watching for in the photo. please, stay safe!

Friday, September 4, 2020 - Country Acres • Page 5 Izzy Lahr says hello to a Jersey heifer, Aug. 10 at the Larry and Jen Lahr farm near Cold Spring. The children are active in 4-H and show cattle, this year in a virtual format.

Hundreds of heifers

Lahrs raise Holsteins, Jerseys for area dairies BY DIANE LEUKAM | STAFF WRITER

COLD SPRING – Sitting on the patio in front of a large yellow brick four-square farmhouse on Aug. 10, the tLahrs’ conversation was tanimated. After all, they were discussing the merits of two breeds of cattle – Holsteins and Jerseys – rand choosing their favortites. Liam, 8, knew his favorite right away. “Holstein,” he piped up. Larry might have agreed with his son, but chose the more philosophical route. “I could not pick a favorite, actually, and they have such different personalities; it’s unbelievable to see them side by side,” he said. “I grew

up with Holsteins and they were more nervous and defensive, and I just don’t see that (here). I am always amazed at the Jerseys because they’re very curious. If they get out, you don’t chase them, you lead them in. They come up to you instead of going away from you, but both herds are incredibly docile. I’m very glad we have both for a lot of reasons.” Jen is not afraid to show her partiality. “As the former State Jersey Queen, I don’t hesitate to say my favorite is the Jersey, and I’ve convinced only two of my kids,” she said. Daughters Ella, 11, and Izzy, 9, agree with Mom.

The Lahrs have plenty of opportunities to develop their preferences. They custom raise heifers for two dairy herds, one of each breed. At any given time, there are about 430 heifers on their farm. Twelve years ago, Larry and Jen began custom raising heifers for Jen’s parents, Leonard and LeeAnn Wagner, and her brother, Justin, who have a herd of 500plus Jersey cows near Litchfield. Each month, about 20 weaned calves are brought to the Lahrs’ farm, each weighing about 350 pounds. Holstein heifers are raised for the Mill Creek Dairy of Kimball, for Tom and Donna Grego-


Izzy (from left), Liam, Ella, Jen and Larry Lahr raise heifers near Cold Spring. The large historic home in the background was built in 1888 and is much loved by the family. It was designed by Paul Koshiol, who was also the architect of the Sacred Heart Church in Freeport.

ry, along with their son, Nick, and Tom’s brother, Ed. The Gregorys’ herd is 550-600 cows, and about every six weeks they deliver 30 600-pound weaned calves to the Lahrs. Heifers are housed in several buildings at the

Lahrs’, with the Jerseys beginning in their own space for a period of time, both in an outbuilding and the old dairy barn on the farm. After that, they are all in a large open-front heifer facility, where they move through the pens by size and breeding status.

The Holsteins and Jerseys are kept separate at all times. “They have a graduation of pens; they don’t all move together,” Jen said.

Lahrs page 6

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Lahrs from Page 5 “We’ll move part of them out at a time. Some just don’t thrive with bigger animals, so you let them be the bigger ones in the pen and they bounce back.” The animals are fed a TMR (total mixed ration) that varies by season, but always consists of corn silage, hay, protein and minerals. Ground corn is fed to the younger animals all year and to the older ones in winter. Other commodities, such as beet pulp, dry corn straw and sweet corn by product are added when available. The heifers consume an average of 45 pounds per head per day, with the Jerseys averaging 25 pounds and the Holsteins 60. The nutritionist at the farm is Kevin Ratka, a friend and neighbor whose 15-year-old son, Tyler (Ace Man according to the Lahr kids) Ratka, also works with the Lahrs. The health of the heifers is generally monitored by Larry, and every two weeks a herd check is done by a veterinarian. “We don’t mess with that appointment very often,” Larry said. “Like clockwork, they’re here. We’ll check for pregnancy and health issues.” Health issues are kept to a minimum. “I have to credit the dairies; they both do a very good job of keeping


Liam Lahr (from left), Tyler Ratka and Ella Lahr observe heifers Aug. 10 on the Larry and Jen Lahr farm near Cold Spring. The Lahrs custom raise both Jerseys and Holsteins, with an average of 430 head on the farm at any given time.

their animals healthy,” Larry said. There are two breeding pens on the Lahr farm, one for each breed of heifers. The heifers are placed there around 12 months, after they have had their final vaccinations, and breeding begins at about 13 months. Heat detection is done by observation of standing heats and the use of tail paint, which, when disturbed, indicates heat activity. Breeding is all AI (artificial insemination), and the heifers remain in the breeding pen until they have been con-

firmed pregnant twice by ultrasound. Creating ease of management for all of these activities is the use of headlock stalls on the feeding line. The heifers are transported back to their respective dairies at about 100 days pregnant, weighing from 900-1,200

pounds, with the Holsteins being the larger animals. With help from Tyler and others two or three days a week with chores, the bulk of the heifer work is done by Larry, with help from Jen as well. It is full time, but to Larry, the heifer operation

is quite manageable. “It’s about the perfect size in being maxed out in terms of the farm commitment,” he said. “Even when someone is here to do chores or Tyler is helping me, that just means I’m focusing my attention on something else.” The heifer raising op-

eration is just a part of the Lahrs’ commitments. In a partnership with Larry’s brother, Randy, called Lahr Heritage Acres, they raise corn and soybeans on about 500 acres. And, they are always trying something new. There have been experiments with specialty soybean crops and growing soybeans for seed, and a solar garden project supplies energy to area school districts with a small portion of its electricity going to the City of St. Cloud. “We have found ways to produce more revenue from smaller acres by today’s standards,” Larry said. “Any experiment we have done has been good. But, we’re not ones to jump into things without a lot of careful planning.” Jen smiled. “Well, I might,” she said. “I am more likely to say, ‘let’s do it,’ and he is the one pulling back the reins.” Jen is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Agriculture and majored in applied economics. Her nature is to be inquisitive and to experiment, traits that pair well with her full-time work

Lahrs page 7

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Holstein heifers eat an average of 60 pounds of TMR (total mixed ration) per day. The headlocks on the feed line provide an efficient way for the Lahrs to care the animals.


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Lahrs from Page 6 with AURI (Agriculture Utilization Research Institute). She works from her home office. “I run our commercialization team and business development efforts, working with entrepreneurs and companies that are looking to bring new products to market using Minnesota agricultural products. There’s always something interesting going on,” Jen said. One of her favorite projects is working with the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green program, which is to bring new crops to market for farmers that include winter annuals and perennials that would keep a continuous living cover on the ground. Some of those crops include Kernza and oilseeds such as winter camelina and pennycress. Lahr Heritage Acres is currently experimenting with an unusual row crop that has received much attention from passersby, who speculate as to what it is. The Lahrs are unable to discuss the specifics at this time, but they have adopted the name, Purple Haze, for the crop. When Jen brings a business suggestion to Larry, he is equipped with the background to look at all options objectively.


This experimental crop is being grown during the 2020 season by Lahr Heritage Acres near Cold Spring, and it has generated much interest from passersby. Details about the crop are not available at this time, but Larry and Jen Lahr refer to it as “Purple Haze.”

people working hard for you and keeping your best interests in mind, that they might not otherwise have had,” he said. “It’s been quite a change, though. I went from managing people to being managed by animals.” Wherever the management is directed, Jen trusts Larry when it comes to something she

wants to try. “I don’t have a lot of hesitation; if he feels comfortable with something I know he’s done the homework,” she said. “That also means whenever I have an idea it has to go through the process!” She is certain one of her upcoming projects will make the cut.

“I’m going to have Kernza in one of our fields next year,” she said with a grin. In the meantime, they will stay busy. The kids are active in 4-H and a large vegetable garden and landscaping projects keep the summer busy. The huge, historic house on the property is always a work in progress, along

with a wooden silo and the beloved original barn that need attention. They might even re-convene on the patio in a lively discussion about which breed is best of their hundreds of fourlegged friends. Larry can take a vote, but unfortunately for Liam, it looks like he is outnumbered.

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Larry is a graduate of St. Cloud State University with a degree in public administration and a minor in economics. His goal even in high school was to be a city administrator, and eventually combine that with farming. He worked for the city of Little Falls, then as city administrator in Gaylord, before the opportunity came up for him to work as city administrator for his home town of Cold Spring. After 10 years there, and with one small child and another on the way, a decision needed to be made. Jen was doing well in her career, with a lot of travel and night meetings, while Larry was busy with three nights of meetings a week. Evening daycare was not working for the couple. “It was clear pretty quickly that it wasn’t a workable plan for us both to have our careers,” Larry said. “I was very happy to give up mine and give this a chance, and she was very happy to continue to progress in hers. It came very naturally.” Many of the skills he acquired are put to use in their farming operation, including developing good relationships as well as patience, both with people and projects. “I’m such a believer in that if you keep good relationships, it keeps

Page Pa age ge 8 • Coun Country ntr tryy Ac A Acres ress - F re Friday, rida ri daay, y, September Sep pte t mber 4,, 22020 020

Soil science for strawberries Brouwers use cutting-edge data, sheep to improve land BY SARAH COLBURN STAFF WRITER

RAYMOND – Each year, hundreds of people visit the Brouwer Berries fields, gathering up containers of perfectly delectable, red strawberries while making some pick-your-own memories along the way. The June-bearing strawberry plants fill the fields belonging to Sarah and Dan Brouwer and their five kids. Each

spring, as the signature delicate white blossoms emerge, the Brouwers get to work, cutting them off to encourage the plants to leaf out before growing berries. “We’ve always had more customers than we’ve had strawberries,” Sarah said. What began as 1,500 plants and a wait-and-see attitude, has transformed into a science-based operation behind the scenes. The Brouwers have divided the most fertile part

Heidi and cousin, Sonya, give a sheep a bath before Brouwer Berries opens for customers for the day.

of their 80-acre farm into six blocks and they track each block of strawberries, monitoring and recording how much weeding and watering they do in the space. Additionally, with the help of a testing lab located in the Netherlands, they study exactly which nutrients are lacking in the plants taking root in each block of the farm. The tracking, said Sarah Brouwer is essential to understanding how each section of the farm is performing, allowing it to run as efficiently as possible and increase the poundage in every section. With the help of some grant dollars, the Brouwers are now studying how planting cover crops and grazing sheep on the property help with soil aeration and health. “Before, it was all just anecdotal; now, we’re making database decisions,” Sarah said. “That gives us a lot more confidence moving forward.” Brouwer, a science teacher by trade, revels in the data collection. She will actually be bringing her students out to the farm to allow them to collect samples and graph them. The Brouwers are collecting year-over-year


All the members of the Brouwer family help on the strawberry farm including James (from left front), Tim, Sarah, Dan, Heidi and Alinda Brouwer. Not pictured are son, Neil, and his wife, Hannah, who live in Montana.

data for comparison and improvement. The ultimate goal, she said, is to create the most productive eight acres of strawberries, allowing them to make a living off the farm which is open to the public for a short three weeks each year. The Brouwers introduced sheep to the farm in 2018, with just 60 sheep,

at the urging of some advisors who said the hoofing action could make the land more profitable. The Brouwers applied for, and received, an AGRI Livestock Investment Grant that helps them cover the cost of converting their cattle barn to a sheep barn with more watering stations, concrete and gates. In order to accommodate

lambing, they’ll be outfitting the barn with 150 small lambing squares, called “jugs,” for each mother and baby duo. By February, they anticipate they’ll need space for 450 sheep. The sheep will be sold for meat through

Brouwer page 9


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Brouwer from page 8 the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Management Program offered by the Minnesota West Community & Technical College. For Dan, who went to school to be a dairy farmer, the sheep are the next best fit. Sarah leaves all the livestock care tasks to her husband. The farm gives each of them, and their kids, a place to focus based on their own talents and interests. Through an AGRI Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant

through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Brouwers will study the work of the sheep, something that’s being looked at by farmers around the world. They plant cover crops and let the sheep graze on things like annual rye, oats, or sorghum/sudan. As the cover crops grow, the roots inject air and nutrients into the soils. And, as the sheep graze, their hooves activate microbiological activity in the rhizosphere, which is the

area around the roots of the plants. After two years of cover crop and grazing, that section of field becomes ready for strawberry planting once again. “The question is, how do we move the animals in little sections so they graze not too far down, but enough to send the roots down deeper to replenish the soil,” Sarah said. “You can’t be profitably organic with strawberries in Minnesota, but this brings us really close.” The Brouwers always come back to the numbers as they make decisions. When they had cattle on the land in prior years, the soil became compacted and the plants did poorly in those areas. They tracked it and found they spent 200 hours hand weeding the areas where cattle grazed versus the 30 hours they spent weeding in well-drained soil. “In the past, we’d say we ‘hated this field,’ and now, we can say, ‘this cost us $2,000 more to weed,’” Sarah said. The Brouwers are also studying the nutrients they add to the soil with the help of a sap testing company based in the Netherlands. Four times a summer, they collect young and old leaves Daughter Heidi pauses during her work pitching straw from the plants, put them in Ziploc baggies, place off the strawberry plants in the spring.


Sheep graze on a rye cover crop on the Brouwer Berries fields as a group tours the farm in Raymond.

them on ice and ship them to the Netherlands for analysis. They receive an email that predicts which nutrients the plants will be lacking in for the coming week so they can be added to the soil. Because they work the farm in blocks, the testing tells them specifically which nutrients need to be added to each block and each block is different. Sarah equates it to human testing. “It would be like giving us a recommendation on what multi-vitamin to

take next month to stay healthy,” she said. In addition to the soil health analysis testing they do, the sap testing was recommended by agronomists they use as advisors on the farm. One is an advisor with Agro-K in Minneapolis and he’s been working with strawberries for 50-60 years. The company offers workshops for farmers each year and that’s how the Brouwers learned of the testing. They received grant dollars to help subsidize the testing costs,

but even when the grant money runs out, they plan to continue. “This is so cutting edge and has such potential for what we’re doing,” Sarah Brouwer said. This year, with the onset of COVID-19, the Brouwers were also forced to implement new strategies when it came to customer care. They opened drive-thru strawberry pick-up and placed containers directly into the vehicle trunks of their

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Page 10 • Country Acres - Friday, September 4, 2020

Brouwer fromcommunity, page 9 helping other Biblical words of Deuter-

customers to allow for contactless pick-up. They converted the garage on their home into a drive-thru and the endeavor was so well received they’re planning to expand it next year, adding refrigeration units to the garage to aid in pick-up of next year’s harvest. Overall, as they have implemented new strategies on the farm, COVID-19 has shown Sarah the importance of shopping local and supporting small business. As the community has supported her and her family with their purchases, she’s gone on to buy her groceries locally and spend dollars in the

businesses sustain. onomy 33:13-16: Despite all the good will and all of the things May the Lord the Brouwers do to folbless this land low the science of the with the precious dew land and soil in hopes that from heaven above, their plants will be strong and with the deep waters enough to withstand that lie below; weather events, Sarah with the best the sun said farming also takes brings forth a little faith. One winand the finest ter cold snap, sustained the moon can yield; strong winds at the wrong with the choicest gifts of time, or heavy rains that the ancient mountains last too long can take out and the fruitfulness the crops. That’s why, de- of the everlasting hills; spite all the science, the with the best gifts Brouwers still infuse their of the earth fields with a healthy dose and its fullness of prayer. and the favor Sarah Brouwer walks of him who dwelt PHOTO SUBMITTED around the farm throughin the burning bush. Perfectly plump and delectable strawberries are ready for the picking every summer at out the year and prays the Brouwer Berries farm in Raymond.

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Dan Brouwer drives the tractor as strawberries are planted at the Brouwer farm in Raymond. Walking and on the planter are Ella (cousin, from left), Alinda, Heidi, Camden (cousin), Tim and Addison (cousin).


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salutes Haley Van Nurden Senior Parents: Paul and Pauline Van Nurden NEW LONDON-SPICER FFA CHAPTER Tell us about your FFA program and your involvement in it: The New London-Spicer FFA chapter has 65 members from grades 7-12. Our members compete in a wide variety of CDEs such as dairy foods, small animals, horse judging, general livestock judging, best informed greenhand, farm business management, fish and wildlife, and many more. We send our members all across the state to compete in their events. Some of our favorite spots to compete at are Little I in Brookings, South Dakota, SMSU’s Ag Days, and the U of M Invitational. We also send members to many camps which help build their leadership skills. Greenhands go to GITS (Greenhands in the Spotlight) and SGLC (State Greenhand Leadership Camp). We also send members to CLC (chapter leadership conference). Our chapter does an annual fruit sale fundraiser. This raises money that allows us to travel to contests, go to state convention, and do other fun things. Last year we were unable to attend state convention because of Covid-19, so we went into our community and bought gift cards. We were able to not only help businesses, but also community members. We handed out the gift cards to school employees, community members that support FFA, and other members that were in need. Outside of this service project, we also adopted a highway that we clean twice a year, and we do other service projects around our community. Every year we have activities that our chapter hosts for our members, students, and community. During homecoming, we put on a dodgeball tournament for students. We also do dodgeball during FFA week, along with a petting zoo with farm animals on Friday. This year, I am the president of our chapter! I am really excited for this role. Last year I was our treasurer. I am on our FBM team and also competed in BIG. One of my favorite activities our chapter does is either the petting zoo or our winter fun night. Â

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SUBMITTED BY LEON SCHULTZ, Garfield Reba, our 2-year-old Springer Spaniel, has claimed this old tree stump as her fort.

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Does a virus need a mascot? During the stay-athome weeks earlier this year, someone sent me a text on a mascot for coronavirus. The concept, to say the least, made me pause. Three questions came to mind: A mascot for coronavirus? A disease needs a mascot? (In the past, there have been mascots and emblems promoting work to end a disease, such as pink ribbons for breast cancer, but not really a mascot for the disease.) The third question that had to be asked was, what was this person’s suggestion for a mascot? The reply was quick: A raccoon. A raccoon? The raccoon has served as a mascot in the past. It was adopted as the mascot of the St. Paul Saints and it is also a mascot of the Tennessee Titans football team (as if Titan itself wasn’t enough of a mascot). Occasionally a mount, statue or pet, the raccoon has become a good luck charm for teams or individuals. Raccoons are interesting animals, and those who have seen them take on a dog in a fight know they don’t lack fighting spirit. The raccoon has fascinated and confused people ever since they first saw them. Native to North America, they are now members of the procyonid family. At one time, they were classified as part of the ursine (bear) family. The Native Americans

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A new farming venture Udermanns see uptick in demand for locally grown beef BY DIANE LEUKAM | STAFF WRITER

SARTELL – When customers drive up a scenic gravel road near Sartell, they might notice the trees and meadows. Driving into the yard, they see a century farm sign, along with a neatly groomed lawn and landscaping. And, they see the friendly faces of Alex and Kirsten Udermann. The young couple dairy farm with Alex’s parents, John and Mary Lou, and Alex’s younger brother, Jake. Customers come to purchase ground beef, roasts and steaks in a transaction that brings the beef from farm to table. In the last several months, these transactions are occurring much more often around the countryside, nationally, as a way to connect customers and growers. The Udermanns believe it can be very beneficial for consumers to find a local farmer selling meat to the public. PHOTOS BY DIANE LEUKAM “We have been selling meat off the farm for years to family and friends, and then this spring I threw Alex and Kirsten Udermann, with baby Kallie, are pictured Aug. 26 at the Udermann farm near Sartell. The Udermanns some on Facebook, and it took off,” Alex said Aug. farm with Alex’s parents, John and Mary Lou, and Alex’s younger brother, Jake. 26 at the farm. oats and grass hay. Alex’s wife, Kirsten, and 4-month-old daughter, “We buy bedding here and there on a bad year, but Kallie, sat in on the conversation. The couple has been we are pretty self-sufficient on feed,” Alex said. married three years and lives in the large farmhouse In addition to the dairy cattle, the Udermanns bewith John and Mary Lou. They are the fifth genera- gan custom solid manure hauling this spring and feed tion on the farm that was first purchased by Alex’s out about between 100 and 150 head of steers each great-great-grandfather. The story goes, he owned year. Those steers have become a catalyst for their a brewery in St. Cloud and before the Volstead Act, meat-selling endeavor. Each year, this portion of the known as the National Prohibition Act, was signed in operation has grown from their start years ago selling 1919, he sold it and purchased a farm for each of his the meat from three to four steers a year. Since the four sons. beginning of the coronavirus this past spring, business Originally, the milking barn was equipped with has been on the uptick. about 40 stanchions, but was replaced in 1981 with Once a week, cattle are butchered and packaged at a tie stall barn holding 80 stalls. The Udermanns still Beef steers eat a meal of grass hay and ground corn, Aug. milk 80 cows, and have grown to 1,200 acres of crop26 at the Udermann farm near Sartell. Udermanns page 20 land on which they grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa, rye,


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Page 20 • Country Acres - Friday, September 4, 2020

Udermanns from page 19 the St. Joseph Meat Market where they are USDA Federally inspected. Alex hauls the meat home to fill one or all of their five deep freezers; it doesn’t stay there long. Alex used to deliver meat to their customers who hail from as far north as Little Falls and south to the metro area. He can no longer deliver it all and has recently partnered with a company called Dairy2U. They source locally grown foods such as milk, eggs and meat, and do home and business delivery. Others pick up their meat from the Udermanns. “They have to come out to the farm,” Alex said. “Sometimes, I give them a quick farm tour – the kids really enjoy that; they learn something out the farm and the parents

enjoy it, too.” Alex created their Meadowbrook Farm website and Facebook page to connect with the public and grow an audience within the local community. Often, he and Kirsten will post everyday happenings from the farm to the page, something their customers have enjoyed seeing. “It’s a chance for them to get to know us, the product and how it’s raised,” Alex said. Between that, word of mouth and their becoming a farmer member of the Farm Direct Minnesota Facebook group, they are as busy as they want to be. When grilling season comes around, people want steak and hamburger to grill every weekend,” he said. “It’s enough to


Alex Udermann packages a variety meat bundle for a customer Aug. 26 at the farm near Sartell.

keep us busy with the baby and milking cows,” Alex said. After a sale, Alex takes the time to follow up and see what their imPHOTO SUBMITTED pression was of the prodBurgers on the grill are a welcome sight, especially during uct. He has found them to the summer when demand for grilling meats increases be extremely pleased and dramatically. wanting more.

er Late Summ


Kirsten may have been at Meadowbrook Dairy for just three years, but cattle have been part of her life since she was a young girl, when her parents custom-raised calves for dairy farms. After they sold out, she began working at area dairies at

the age of 14. “I was feeding calves and milking cows for a 300-cow dairy for seven years,” she said. “That was after school and on the weekends.” She attended Ridgewater College for dairy management, followed

by working for Select Sires as a relief technician while also working at a dairy farm and driving a milk truck. Eventually, when her dairy employer experienced health problems, she worked there

Udermanns page 21

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Friday, September 4, 2020 - Country Acres • Page 21

Udermanns from page 20

Country Acres


Country A cres

Friday, May 1, 2020

family Cattle

Volume 8,

Edition 5

Polzins pur elite geneticsue of various s breeds

Focusing on

Today’s Rural



PHOTO SUBMIT Brooke (from rae and Coltonleft), Chris, Leslie, TED the 2019 MinnesPolzin are pictureDesid at Brooke’s Herefo ota State Fair, where her class at the rd heifer, Lil Red, invested in elite4-H Show. The Polzinswon embryo center cattle at their farm are and in Darwin.

By DIANE LEUK Staff Write AM r DARW and Leslie IN – At the Chris in Darwin, Polzin household tle … and it’s all about catnections. family, and conNow, one else with like everyadjusting to kids, they are due to COVI school at home begins with D-19. Each day legiance. Atthe Pledge of Althey sit in 9 a.m. Central, I with drive around a buddy of Neal McCoy, the and talk more than theirs who for the phone and my wife on hand to produc 1,560 and and perhap kids do the e embryos, days has recited consecutive work,” company. bulk of s anothe of Allegiance the Pledge smile. Chris said with the cipients to receiv r 50 reThe Polzin e a live on “I am not s also own Facebook organized. bryos. Those embry the em- many bulls page. Then, his We make a good for os have ics, become some school day their to meet team but the bulls their genetbegins in the middle trying cattle in the of the leading elsewh are McCoy is a . .” industry. ere, and only housed The organi ic legend who country mu- marily “I have alway zation semen used. frozen has release done by Leslieis pri- thing for s 5 albums d admits elite quality had a ics are marke Their genet, who since she and ted throug the early cattle partne prefers to our goal is 990s, includ h a in rship stay best um and one ing three plati- mostthe background. She cattle in making the al, forme with ABS Globthe indust gold. He is rly is involv even the ed American ry Breeders better,” Chris in the day-to investor in also day operatio Service cattle a d - are i said “W

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T-bone steaks sizzle on the grill at Meadowbrook Farm of Sartell, where Alex and Kirsten Udermann sell beef in a farm-to-table format.

solely, managing the dairy. She and Alex met in 2015 and married in 2017, when she came to Meadowbrook. She does the AI work on the farm, along with various other chores. The two have taken great satisfaction in their meat-selling venture. “It’s from the farm to your table and you can see where your product is coming from,” Kirsten

said. “You want to be honest and have a fair price.” Alex agreed. “We were selling before COVID, but we never changed our price; there is trust between us and the consumer, and we didn’t want to take advantage of anyone,” he said. Their customers’ needs vary greatly, and the Udermanns take those needs into consideration. Some families are large

and some smaller, and freezer space is a big issue for many. So, they have gone from selling just quarters to family and variety meat bundles. In whatever form those transactions take place, they have one main objective. “Our biggest goal is to provide a local, healthy, nutritious and affordable product for everyone,” Alex said.

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Friday, September 4, 2020 - Country Acres • Page 23



• • • • •

Alexandria Douglas County

1-1/2 cups sugar 1 cup vegetable oil 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup buttermilk 2 tsp. vanilla 1 tsp. baking soda 3 cups flour

• • • • • •

1 tsp. salt 3/4 cup chopped nuts 2 cups rhubarb, diced 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix sugar, oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Add soda, flour and salt; stir in rhubarb and nuts. Spoon into muffin pans lined with cupcake papers. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts and sprinkle over top of batter before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-32 minutes. Yields approximately 32 muffins. These freeze well.

2 tsp. cinnamon 2 tsp. vanilla 1-1/2 cups sugar 1/3 cup butter, melted Nutmeg (optional)

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1 pound ground beef • Salt and pepper to taste 1/3 cup Minute Rice • 1 can tomato soup OR cream of 1 medium onion, chopped mushroom soup 1 egg, beaten • 1 can water 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs Mix all ingredients except soup and water. Make into meatballs of desired size. Brown them in frying pan or oven. Place meatballs in casserole dish. Mix soup with water, then pour over meatballs. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

Orange Fruit Salad • 1 (12-ounce) carton small curd cottage cheese • 1 (10-ounce) container Cool Whip • 1 (13-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

• • • • •

Cube/tear the bread and spread into 9x13” buttered/greased baking pan. Sprinkle the raisins over the bread. Heat the milk (not to boiling). Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add small amounts of the milk to the eggs to warm them to the milk temperature. Eventually, all the milk is mixed with the eggs. Then, gently beat/ mix the salt, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar into the egg/milk mixture. Pour this over the bread and raisins. Pour butter over all ingredients in the baking pan. Sprinkle nutmeg over the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until center of bread pudding is set.

Rhubarb Muffins • • • • • • •

9-10 cups stale bread 1 cup raisins 5 cups milk 4 eggs, beaten 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1 or 2 (15-ounce) can/s mandarin oranges, drained • 1 (3-ounce) package orange Jello

Mix cottage cheese, Cool Whip, pineapple and oranges. Sprinkle dry Jello over the top and stir. Refrigerate. Will keep 10 days.

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Page 24 • Country Acres - Friday, September 4, 2020

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