By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN A typical day for Shannon Nix (daughter of Tim and Ann Nix) starts around 5 or 5:30 a.m., long before her first class at Holy Trinity High School in Winsted.
“I wake up in the morning and milk the cows,” said Nix, who works about 28 hours per week at her family’s farm, Nix Milking Shorthorns, in Plato.
Fellow Holy Trinity students Jordan Fasching, Kyle Raduenz, Wyatt Entinger, and Will O’Sullivan are familiar with farm life, as well.
On a busy week, Fasching’s schedule is “eat, sleep, go to school, go to work.” He and Entinger are both employed at Prairie Dairy, owned by Kraig and Rachelle Krienke south of Lester Prairie.
“It takes about eight hours to milk where I work,” Fasching said, explaining that 325 cows are milked in a parlor.
Raduenz (son of Bev Raduenz and Jeff Raduenz) milks 105 cows in a tie stall barn at Lachermeier Dairy in Winsted, owned by his uncle, Kevin Lachermeier.
“I don’t mind milking; it’s relaxing, unless the cows are giving you grief,” Raduenz said, admitting that he’s been kicked more than once.
Nix has been injured, too, and remembers getting a black eye when a cow bucked her with its head.
Cattle have also been known to break out of their fences from time to time.
Once, when Nix and her family were away from home, the cows got out and wandered to a nearby property. The neighbors weren’t sure what to do, so they called the McLeod County Sheriff’s Office. When help arrived, the sheriff’s office vehicle ended up hitting one of the cows by accident.
Getting cows corralled back into their enclosures isn’t always easy, according to Raduenz.
“You’ve got to try to outsmart them four-wheelers help,” he said.
A farming future
Although it’s not always easy, the “curve balls” of farming are what Raduenz likes most about his job.
Next year, Raduenz plans to join the ag program at Ridgewater College in Willmar, for farm operations management with a dairy emphasis.
“I’m looking forward to my uncle expanding,” Raduenz said, adding that, in the future, he’d like to partner with Lachermeier Dairy.
Fasching (son of Joleen Fasching) has been at Prairie Dairy for more than a year, and also hopes to have a career in farming someday.
Dairy is the most common agricultural job among students at Holy Trinity, but O’Sullivan’s family in rural Maple Lake has a different type of farm. O’Sullivan and his parents, Frank and Mary Sullivan, own a small cattle operation offering Shorthorn and Shorthorn-influenced genetics.
O’Sullivan’s duties include feeding the animals, and keeping them washed and ready for showing. Preparation begins when calves are about 6 months old, when they are trained to lead, wear a halter, and become accustomed to background noise.
Summer, sports, school
For many teenage farm employees, workloads increase in the summertime.
“It doubles and sometimes triples,” Raduenz said.
“If you’re making hay, it can be a very long day,” Fasching added.
Fieldwork especially in an air-conditioned tractor is often a welcome relief.
“That’s the best part,” Fasching said.
Although summer is often quite busy, the school year is pretty eventful, too.
In addition to farming, Jordan is involved in baseball, and Kyle participates on the trapshooting team. O’Sullivan is active in 4-H, while Entinger’s after-school activities range from cross country, to track and field, to serving as basketball manager.
Nix is a three-sport athlete, with volleyball, basketball, and softball.
The students have at least one study hall during the day, which gives them a bit more flexibility in the evenings.
“I’m usually pretty diligent about getting my homework done during the school day,” said Entinger (son of John and Colleen Entinger).
Entinger, who began working at Prairie Dairy a few months ago, is saving money for college. After he graduates from Holy Trinity in 2015, he’d like to study to become a chemist.
Nix is also college-bound, with plans to major in business, and minor in hospitality and tourism.
Nix began helping with farm chores at age 6, and started milking cows when she was 10. Her older brother also helps with milking, in addition to having a full-time job off the farm. Their parents are both employed off the farm, as well.
Nix, O’Sullivan, Entinger, Fasching, and Raduenz aren’t afraid of a little hard work now and then, and they like the variety and challenge that farming offers.
“It’s never easy,” Fasching said.
“And, it’s never the same,” Entinger added.