HOWARD LAKE Roger and Cindy Heuer of rural Howard Lake can’t imagine any other way of life
They’re family farmers, and proud of it. In fact, Roger’s family has been connected to their land for 100 years.
An honor a century in the making
This milestone puts their farm, officially named R C Heuer Farms, on the 2017 list of 165 family farms designated as Century Farms, by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
The Heuer farm is one of two Wright County farms earning the distinction; the other Wright County Century Farm belongs to Gene and Lisa Gabrelcik of Montrose.
“Being a ‘Century Farm’ demonstrates our commitment to a way of life,” Cindy said, “our family’s focus is on farming.”
To qualify for the Century Farm designation, farms must have been in continuous family ownership for at least 100 years, and be 50 acres or larger in size.
Century farm families receive a commemorative sign, as well as a certificate signed by Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota Farm Bureau presidents, and Gov. Mark Dayton.
The ownership of the Heuer’s farm moved through several generations throughout the last century.
August Heuer purchased the original farm in 1907, and owned it for 41 years, until it was purchased by his son, Raymond Heuer, and wife, Ella, in 1948. They then sold the farm to Roger’s father, Ronald, in 1961, upon Raymond’s death.
Roger’s father passed away in 1978, and at that time Roger (15 years old at the time), and his brother, Rick (14), assumed operation of the farm.
Roger purchased the farm from his brother and sister in 1983. Roger and Cindy were married in 1985, and have been farming there ever since.
Cindy said that the family gets much of their information about the history of their farm from old pictures.
“We can see that the farm has increased in acreage,” Cindy said. “It has changed from being a farm that raised several animals, dairy, hogs and chickens, to being predominantly dairy.”
The only thing constant
Of course, as with all things, 100 years has brought about a lot of technical changes, as well.
“I would say automation has been a major change,” Cindy said. “Milking has moved from hand-milking and storing milk in cans for delivery to the Howard Lake Creamery, to milk buckets and a bulk tank, to now milkers with automatic take offs, to bulk tanks with a cooler plate. That milk gets delivered to the Paynesville AMIP plant.”
Cindy said that obviously farm equipment has steadily grown in size, and there have been tremendous advances in knowledge of dairy nutrition and associated agronomy practices.
“We have our feed products analyzed for nutrient value and then our nutritionist develops a ratio that is mixed each day,” Cindy reported. “Agronomists analyze our soil and share with us optimum nutrients and fertilizers to be added during crop production.”
Every step in production is evaluated for cost benefit analysis.
“Our creamery shares very detailed information about the components of our milk, such as milk fat and protein,” Cindy said. “We can track our production levels.”
Regulatory agencies are another relatively recent farm phenomenon.
“Farm oversight by regulatory agencies is at an increased level,” Cindy commented. “They help farmers ensure they are sending safe products to market.”
All in the family
Roger and Cindy’s children, Courtney and Carl, grew up on the farm, and helped out with farm operations from early childhood.
Carl officially joined his parents on the farm after two years of agriculture studies at Ridgewater College in Willmar. Carl married his wife, Ellie, in 2016.
Daughter, Courtney, and her husband, Travis, farm with his family in Fillmore County.
It’s more like a 5 to 9 job . . .
Today, Roger and Carl tackle farm chores together, beginning with the 5 a.m. milking.
One of the men milks with a part-time employee’s assistance. The other moves cows to the dairy barn and cleans and scrapes in the Freestall barn, and tackles hauling out manure.
When that is finished, Roger cares for the calves, feeding them and assessing their health. Milking is completed around 9 a.m. each morning.
The farmers’ day is just beginning. After the morning milking, Roger and Carl mix feed in the TMR mixer for cows and heifers. They break for a quick breakfast at 10:30 a.m.
During a typical day, the men perform field work, farm repairs, and clean barns and feedlots.
Evening milking starts around 4:30 p.m., and continues until approximately 7:30 p.m.
Cindy and Ellie are integral to the farm operation, as well, and also hold down other jobs.
Why it’s worth it, even when it’s hard
Cindy says all the farm work is worth it, and it’s a satisfying occupation, as well.
“Our family is able to work together to provide food to our neighbors, Americans, and worldwide,” she said. “The beauty of watching a calf being born is amazing, and that she will someday grow into a cow that provides wholesome dairy products is more than amazing,” she said.
Farming is not without its challenges. Cindy said the biggest hurdle for most family farmers is financial.
“The price of milk has been depressed for several years, but the costs of inputs has not changed,” she said. “So farmers, especially dairy farmers, are having to watch every penny and try to maximize their milk price, by not only focusing on the pounds they are producing, but that it has all of the components that are needed.”
Advice for future generations
After giving the matter some thought, Cindy had some advice to offer for newer, younger farmers.
“Farming can either be the best decision you can make or the worst,” she said.
“You need to recognize there are long hours, and maybe not the best financial return.
“We believe the rewards out weigh the down sides.” Cindy said. “You can work together every day, and with family and neighbors.”
Cindy also suggested learning about the farming industry from those who live it.
“The best advice is to talk to mentors of an older generation,” she said. “Their wisdom is invaluable. They may not be up-to-date on the latest technology, but their perspective is tremendous. Farming can be cyclical, and managing through the up and downs is important,” she said.
Cindy concluded her advice by stressing the importance of faith and family.
“With them first, farming is a wonderful occupation,” she said.
100 years and counting
R C Heuer Farms is steady and strong after a century, and the Heuers intend to keep it that way. The Century Farm honor means a lot to them.
“We’re proud to be a family farm, and the work we do together to bring wholesome products to our neighbors here and across the world,” Cindy said.
Other area farms earning the Century Farm designation in 2017 include: Lisa and Mark Laumann of Carver County; the Mathews Farm, the Daniel Iver Gensmer and Karen Marie Gensmer Farm, and the Joseph R. Vacek Farm, all of McLeod County; and the Darren Amdahl Farm, the Berg Family Farm; the Steven Radtke Farm, the Einar O. and Delores R. Lundin Farm, and the Vernon and Wanda Mortenson Farm, all of Meeker County.