Skip to main content

University of Minnesota announces 2017 Farm Families of the Year

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/12/2017)—Eighty families from throughout Minnesota are being honored as 2017 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. 3, 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 2017 farm families are profiled here (

Benton County
Rick & Marlene Schlichting and Family

Rick’s grandparents, the Wojtanowicz family, homesteaded in the Rice area in the 1920s. The farm is now owned and operated by the third generation of Schlichting and Wojtanowicz families. It has grown to 6,300 acres with a rotation of potatoes, edible beans, corn, and alfalfa and winter rye. The family also raises about 28,000 hogs in a farrow-to-finish operation.

The Schlichting family has irrigated since 1969 and 5,800 of their acres are irrigated. The family converted its irrigation systems to low pressure and completed irrigation management on all 65 irrigation pivots they operate. Rick has restored nearly 70 acres to prairie, which is what it was like when his grandparents first settled there. The Schlichtings began planting cover crops in the early 1970s and have some land enrolled in CRP.

The Schlichtings have worked for many years with the University of Minnesota on nutrient management test plots. They’ve also coordinated with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on conservation and water quality efforts.

In 2016, the Schlichtings were honored with the Outstanding Conservationist Award by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Chisago County
Crazy Boy Farm
Proeun and Amy Doeun

Proeun and Amy bought their farm just north of Rush City in 2011 and are transitioning to an organic farm. The family grows heirloom vegetables and heritage-breed animals; they are working to be a “meal farm” where all the products for a complete meal come from the same farm. Their current CSA season runs for 16 weeks from the end of June to early October. The family sells shares in the farm each year at three different levels.

Family and community are important to the Doeuns. This year they are donating 20 percent of their early sales to a non-profit. They also accept EBT and SNAP benefits so that low-income customers can obtain fresh produce. The Doeuns are a multi-generation farm and get input from grandparents, along with their children, who are learning how to run their own segments of the business.

Proeun and Amy have seven children: Proeun ll, Avril, Mavis, Effie, Pray, Lith and Unnah. They are involved in Chisago County 4-H, the Rush City Youth Sports Club and Restoration Church in Rush City.

Crow Wing County
John and Ruth Jansen

In January 1994, Ruth and John bought 40 acres of corn stubble, sand burrs, and gophers. Over the following years the Jansens transformed the land to Brambling Rows Berry Farm. They planted grapes, blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries and 169 apple trees of 14 different varieties--only to have the trees demolished by grasshoppers two years in a row. The insects also demolished two blueberry varieties.

Brambling Rows Berry Farm no longer raises just fruit; it is now a produce farm with seven greenhouses. The Jansen farm continues to evolve rapidly because of on-going experimental projects. John and Ruth are currently working on a Zone 3 hardy table grape, a purple raspberry, an extremely sweet squash, an early greenhouse tomato and an Italian green bean that doesn’t rot in cold, wet soil.

Several generations of the Jansen family have worked in the operation. In addition to John and Ruth’s children, eight grandchildren have helped out on the farm or at local markets. John and Ruth also have eleven great-grandchildren.

The Jansens are members of Inter-Faith Caregivers and St. Francis Catholic Church. The family donates produce to the Salvation Army Food Shelf, the area soup kitchen and women’s shelter. John and Ruth are active in area farmers’ markets as well.

Mower County
Roger and Lori Read Family

Roger and Lori began farming in 1986 with the purchase of their homestead of 84 acres, one registered Brown Swiss bull and two Brown Swiss cows. Three years later the Reads rented Roger’s parents’ dairy farm and expanded their herd. In 1995, Roger and Lori purchased the farm and expanded further.

In December of 2014, the Reads’ bull, Reads Driver Kannon, was the No. 1 Brown Swiss bull in the nation for net merit and progressive performance ranking. The bull retained the position for two years.

The Reads currently milk 120 registered Brown Swiss and raise 150 head of young stock on two locations. The farm consists of 357 acres in a five-year rotation of barley, alfalfa, corn and soybeans, with most of the crops raised as feedstock.

The Reads’ son, Greg, handles most of the field work. Greg and his wife, Heather, have a daughter, Jennifer. The Reads’ daughter, Bethany, farms with her husband, Kris, in northwestern Minnesota’s Kittson County. They have four children: Jazlynn, Isaac, McKinley and Track.

Roger and Lori have been active in the 4-H dairy lease program and last year received the Mower County 4-H Outstanding Leader Award. The Reads are involved in the Minnesota and National Brown Swiss Associations. Roger is a Lyle township supervisor and Lori is president of a national utility safety organization.

Pipestone County
Lisa Henderson-Smith Family
Prairies Past

The roots of this farm are on the plains of north central South Dakota, where Lisa grew up on a diversified crop and livestock operation started by her grandparents in the 1930s. In 1994, after moving to Pipestone County, Lisa raised four children who have had active roles in the business. For 23 years the family has operated a produce business called Prairies Past, marketing all products locally.

The farm consists of one and a half acres of gardens plus a cold-climate greenhouse for the production of greens during the winter months. The wide variety of produce is grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Sustainable practices include crop rotations, cover crops and providing habitat for beneficial birds and insects. The farm’s produce is direct marketed to customers of the Pipestone Farmer’s Market from June through October, through the farm-to-school program and Dakota Fresh LLC, a local food hub.

Lisa’s children, Joni, Will, Katie and Erin, all have worked cooperatively on the farm, taking care of planting, weeding, harvesting and marketing.

The family volunteers and participates in Pipestone County 4-H. Lisa is an adult volunteer and former 4-H club leader. The family are members of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Minnesota Grown and the Land Stewardship Project. Lisa also serves as president of Pipestone Farmer’s Market Vendors, as treasurer of Dakota Fresh and serves on the board of directors for Progress, an agency that employs adults with disabilities.


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.

Print Friendly and PDF