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University of Minnesota honors farm families of the year

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, University of Minnesota Extension media relations, 612-626-4077 or 651-492-0811,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/14/2016) — Eighty-one Minnesota families are being honored as 2016 Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota.

The farm families will be recognized in ceremonies 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.

The families were chosen by local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture.

"The farm families receiving this year's honors exemplify what makes Minnesota agriculture strong. They bring innovation, science and hard work to farming. They care greatly about the land and animals and delivering quality products to consumers worldwide," said Bev Durgan, dean of Extension. "The University of Minnesota takes pride in honoring these families."

A sampling of farmers and their contributions to agriculture follows. All the 2016 farm families are profiled at

Itasca County
Ralph and Amy Fideldy

Ralph and Amy Fideldy began collecting sap in the 1980s. Today, they produce nearly 1,300 gallons of finished syrup each year on 80 acres of mining property in Tioga, near Grand Rapids.

In 2013, the family’s syrup won best in show at a national maple syrup competition. The also run a 300-acre apple and you-pick blueberry farm. The Fideldys are active community members and participate in the Grand Rapids farmers market.

Martin County
Tracy Melson and Troy Melson

The twin Melson brothers are the fifth generation to farm the land settled by their Swedish ancestors more than 140 years ago.

They are contract growers for New Fashion Pork, raising more than 35,000 pigs a year in 16 barns, as well as growing 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans. They were honored as the 2015 Minnesota Pork Board family of the years.

Tracy and his wife, Beth, have six children; Troy and his wife, Liza, have two. They are active in 4-H and FFA. One year, the two families combined had 85 animals at the Martin County Fair.

Olmsted County
Charles and Carrie Sachs 

The Sachs family’s dairy farm has registered herds of Brown Swiss and Holsteins on their 320-acre farm, where they grow most of the animals’ feed needs.

Charlie is in charge of the management of the farm, feeding, mixing of all cow and heifer feed.  He’s in charge of the herd’s breeding program and he handles most of the field work.  Carrie milks the cows, oversees herd health and the bookwork.  She also works full-time as a nurse at Methodist Hospital in Rochester.

The Sachs have been involved over the years in 4-H and FFA. Charlie is a board member of Plainview Milk Cooperative. Both Charlie and Carrie are members of the Olmstead County American Dairy Association and Carrie is the county coordinator for the Princess Kay program.

Traverse County
Dennis and Peggy Duffield 

Dennis and Peggy Duffield raise corn, soybeans, wheat and hay on their farm, in addition to organic chickens and sweet corn. Dennis is the third-generation of the Duffield family to farm the land.
In addition, Dennis and Peggy do custom baling and have a small repair shop on the farm.

They are active in their community, where Peggy is Folsom Township treasurer and a 4-H leader and Alan has served as Folsom Township clerk for 40 years.  

Dakota County 
Hmong American Farmers Association Farm

The Hmong American Farmers Association Farm (HAFA), a 15-acre research and incubator farm in Vermillion Township, sub-leases land to Hmong-American farm families from the Twin Cities.  HAFA also maintains multiple research and demonstration plots to provide continuing education in sustainable agricultural practices for its 18 families.

Since acquiring the farm in 2013, farm organizers, including Pakou Hang and Janssen Hang, have begun implementing numerous sustainable farming practices. Organizers are executing a whole farm pollinator plan and are conducting a multi-year cover crop research project to study the effects of various cover crops on water and soil health.

For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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