By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN For 150 years, the Krienke farm has been a family legacy, and Kraig and Rachelle Krienke, who were recently named Farm Family of the Year for McLeod County, are proud to carry on that tradition.
Kraig’s great-great-grandfather first purchased the farm near Lester Prairie in 1860. Now, the 650-acre property is home for the Krienkes and their 250 milk cows.
“We’ve been in expansion since 1998,” said Kraig, who began with 50 cows.
Kraig said he enjoys “all aspects” of farming, from milking cows to fieldwork to construction projects. His work day often starts at 4:15 a.m. and doesn’t end until about 9 p.m., but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We enjoy the intensity of the game,” he said. “We continue to improve ourselves. We’re always looking to do better.”
Rachelle, who grew up on a hobby farm, also helps with the work.
“I would have to say my favorite part is the bookkeeping,” she said.
Kraig and Rachelle’s two children, Elizabeth, 9, and Blake, 5, also enjoy life on the farm. Elizabeth is involved in 4-H, and helps feed calves and mow lawn. Blake will be old enough to join 4-H this fall, Rachelle said.
“A farm is a great place to raise a family,” Rachelle said.
Rachelle’s father, Neal, who lives five minutes away, helps with field work, and Kraig’s parents, Roger and Katherine, live next door.
The Krienkes’ four full-time and two part-time employees also keep the farm running smoothly.
Kraig is involved in the Dairy Profitability Enhancement Program, which is part of the Midwest Dairy Initiative. As part of the program, Kraig’s nutritionist, banker, veterinarian, and other people involved with his farm meet quarterly.
“We talk about various projects we want to do,” he said.
An adult farm business management program through Ridgewater College has also been useful, he added.
“By utilizing both of those programs, it’s helped us get to where we are today,” he said. “I highly recommend it.”
The Krienkes also participate in farm tours through the University of Minnesota Extension office.
“We do a lot with Extension,” Kraig said. “I learn from the activities they put on, and I’m hoping people can learn from me, too.”
Recently, the Krienkes and a neighbor purchased a self-propelled chopper for harvesting corn silage. By buying the equipment together, cost was minimized, but they still have reliable equipment, Kraig said.
“The social network in the industry is great here,” Rachelle said.
Kraig and Rachelle said they are proud to help make wholesome dairy products available to others.
“Dairy products are a very important part of a balanced diet,” Kraig said.
Being involved in the dairy industry is “something I feel good about doing,” he added.
The Krienkes were honored as the 2009 McLeod County Farm Family of the Year at Farmfest Aug. 6.
The University of Minnesota Extension office selects one family per county for the award, based on contributions to Minnesota agriculture and community involvement.
To see a list of families that were chosen from other counties, go to www.extension.umn.edu, and click on “U of M recognizes 2009 Farm Families of the Year.”