UMN to recognize 85 farm families in annual ceremony

University of Minnesota Extension

85 farm families and operations, the most in recent memory, will be honored in August by the University of Minnesota at the 2022 Farm Family of the Year ceremony. 

The farms will be recognized in a ceremony beginning at 1:15 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 4, at the annual Minnesota Farmfest on the Gilfillan Estate near Redwood Falls. The event is in the Wick Buildings Farmfest Center on the estate grounds.

Those honored cover a wide spectrum of farming, from traditional crops and livestock to community-based ventures focused on organics and traditional native foods. They were chosen by county-based local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture.

“This year's Minnesota's Farm Families of the Year reflect the breadth and variety of agriculture in our state," said Extension Dean Bev Durgan. "The University of Minnesota is proud to honor these families and their innovation and dedication to Minnesota agriculture." 

A sampling of farmers and their contributions to agriculture follows.

Brown County — Tauer Family 

David and Angie Tauer, along with their children, Ruby and Adam, are the third and fourth generations operating Tauer Dairy. David and Angie purchased the farm in 2008 from his parents, Robert and Darlene, who continue to help with dairy operations. The Tauers have long strived for progress, quality and environmental stewardship. Tauer Dairy consists of 250 head in a free stall and parlor setup; a state-of-the-art heifer-raising facility was added in 2021. 

The family runs a closed herd with a focus on genetics, quality milk/components and overall herd health. Tauer Dairy is continually ranked as a Minnesota Dairy Herd Improvement Association Top 200 herd. The family also runs 450 acres of crop land planted to corn, rye, alfalfa and various cover crop/double cropping rotations. All the crops are used to feed the farm’s livestock. Tauer Dairy is a University of Minnesota international training farm that has hosted 25 interns from 10 countries since 2010; the family has also hosted interns from Penn State University. 

The Tauers are active in their community. Angie created and managed the Brown County Ag Literacy Program working with area libraries and schools to make books related to agriculture available to students. 

Cook County — Grand Portage Community Garden 

The Grand Portage Band of Chippewa has a focus on food sovereignty, which is the inherent right to define its own food system with traditional culture and historical context. The goal is to provide access to healthy, affordable and sustainable food for all members of the community. The formation of the Community Agriculture Through Culture, Health and Education (CACHE) project five years ago has moved this mission forward. 

Originally, the site was a family farmstead; it then became a community garden offering 10 x 12-foot plots to all who wanted to grow. That garden was expanded twice. In the fall of 2012, a 90 x 90-foot school garden was added, followed by three hoop houses. More recently, a five-acre addition was opened, fenced and brought into production. At its Mineral Center location, individual plots are available to tribal members for family production. Produce grown is directed first to program cooks for the Elder Nutrition Program and the Summer Food program for children, in addition to the Headstart program and the Oshki Ogimaag Charter School. The remaining produce is made available to the community through the weekly CACHE Farm Market. There is a community orchard, school and community planters, and a hoop house at the Elder Nutrition Center growing food, as well. 

The community garden has long been supported by past chairman Norman Deschampe and the current tribal chair, Bobby Deschampe. 

Kittson County — Ratzlaff Family 

Mike and Tara Ratzlaff have been running Carlson Prairie Seed Farm full time since 2000. They currently produce seed from six native grass species and three wildflower species on 200 acres of irrigated land and 250 acres of non-irrigated land in rural Newfolden. All the seed produced is cleaned and packaged on the farm and either shipped wholesale to vendors or directly to customers. 

Their daughter, Serena, has worked on the farm since she was 13; she graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead this year. Mike has also served on the Two River Watershed board, the Northwest Regional Sustainable Partnership board and has recently started as treasurer of the Jupiter Township board.

Redwood County — Doug and TaLana Mathiowetz Family 

Doug and TaLana are a fifth-generation farm family and are currently raising the sixth generation. The Mathiowetz families continue to share equipment and labor while managing their own lands. This style of farm management has been successful for many generations. This style of farm management has been successful for many generations. Doug and TaLana currently run a corn, soybean and hay operation, as well as a sheep flock. The family has 200 ewes and raises about 300 lambs for meat. In past years, navy beans, peas and sweet corn were grown, and the family had a farrow-to-finish hog business.

Doug is the farm’s manager and head herdsman. TaLana is an ag advocate and part-time florist. The couple has four children. Doug and TaLana are members of the Redwood County Farm Bureau and TaLana serves on the board. TaLana is a past board member and chair of the MN Farm Bureau’s Promotion and Education Committee. The couple are members of the Redwood County Corn and Soybean Growers and Doug serves on the Cedar Mountain School Board. TaLana is a member of the Redwood County Extension Committee and is a participant in a  Redwood County leadership program. The Mathiowetz kids have all been part of 4-H and FFA. 

Sherburne County — Dudley’s Syrup Company 

In 2011, Jake and Erin Dudley began their syrup business by tapping 14 trees. They used bags and hauled the sap to a boiler. In the following years, the Dudleys kept expanding the number of trees they tapped. By this past season, the Dudleys tapped 730 maple trees and over 700 birch trees to make their syrup. This spring, they harvested 10,000 gallons of maple sap. The family built the Sugar Shack on their land to help in the syrupmaking process. 

The family receives a great deal of help from friends and family during the syrup season. Jake  takes care of the tubing, boiling, evaporation and the equipment. He also manages the trees. Erin helps with bottling the syrup and selling it. She also assists with tapping and syrup making, helps with cleaning, and feeding the workers during the season. The couple’s daughter, Dilynn, assists with the syrup-making process, helps sell the family’s products at markets, posts on social media, and attends Minnesota State University-Moorhead.