Farm Horizons, Aug. 2006

Heuers are Wright Co. farm family of the year

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Farming is a tough business that requires hard work and long days.

Farmers have to deal with rising costs, unpredictable weather, and uncertain prices when it is time to sell.

But there are farms like Roger and Cindy Heuer’s Howard Lake farm, that manage to be successful despite the day-to-day trials. In fact, the Heuers have done such a great job they were chosen as the 2006 Wright County Farm Family of the Year for their contributions to agriculture and to their local community.

Roger and Cindy have been farming together for 21 years. They have two children, a daughter, Courtney, 17; and son, Carl, 13, who help with chores and show great interest in agriculture in general.

The entire family is active in FFA and 4-H, leading county fair activities and showing dairy, beef and poultry at both the county and state levels.

Both Roger and Cindy have farming backgrounds. The Heuer farm was where Roger grew up. He became a full-time farmer at the age of 16, after the death of his father. Cindy grew up on a dairy farm in Waverly where her brother is still farming today.

The Heuers’ dairy farm has a newly remodeled two-story farmhouse, older style barn, silos, grain bins and beautiful flowers everywhere. They farm a total of 347 acres, located on Wright County Rd. 6; the first farm south of the city of Howard Lake.

“People judge our crops because we are on such a busy road and it doesn’t matter who we see in Wright County, they have some comment about our fields, . . . or the crops. People always have a comment,” Cindy said.

Heuers’ crops include corn, soy beans, and alfalfa. They have Holstein dairy cows, and Holstein steers.

Roger and Cindy have made many improvements to their farm since they were married and started farming together. They began milking with buckets and used the Step-Saver for awhile, before getting the milk pipeline. They have purchased new farm machinery, reroofed the barn, added three new sheds, a silo, and grain bins.

“Just maintain. Keep going with what we have,” Roger said, when asked what their future plans for the farm might be.

“With more focus on the steers and crops, as far as future investments,” Cindy added.

“We are always trying to increase our yields because the fuel prices and everything else keeps going up. You always try to do the best job you can,” Roger said.

Roger and Cindy are great supporters of their children’s participation in FFA and 4-H. “What we like is the family involvement. Doing things together,” Cindy said.

Courtney is secretary of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Chapter of FFA and Region IV. Carl is still too young to be a member of the FFA, but he does dairy judging. When he is in ninth grade, he will be able to join.

Courtney and Carl participate in multiple 4-H activities including indoor gardening projects and showing their dogs. Carl has a vegetable garden and enters his vegetables in the county and state fair, and Courtney does some sewing, modeling and home environment projects. Each of them have won a number of awards on their individual showings.

Kind of like a rodeo

By far, the most exciting Heuer family 4-H project is preparing for the dairy and beef competition. “This time of the year, I don’t like breaking steers for the fair,” Roger said.”

Each year Heuers pick between 10 and 14 steers, approximately 14 months old, from their livestock. The steers are picked when they are more than a year old because the Heuers can then judge the animal better for muscle tone and appearance, and have a much better idea of how the animal will show.

As the time gets closer to the fair, they single out the steers that are the best. Then the rodeo part begins. The steer is placed in a chute to keep the animal from bolting. Roger holds the steer’s head, while Courtney places the halter on it. Courtney admits to a few bruises while doing this.

Then the animal is attached to a trailer, and they just drive the trailer around, until the animal gets the idea that it is going to be led by the halter.

This year at the county fair, Courtney received “Reserved Champion” and “Grand Champion Senior Show Person” for her dairy steer’s showing. Both Carl and Courtney qualified for showing their dairy steers at the State Fair, too.

Chicken soup for St. John’s

Another 4-H project that Carl is involved in is showing poultry at both the Wright County Fair and State Fair. This year the family purchased 40 baby chicks so they were able to have a good selection for the county fair and Carl picked two of his best.

The chickens shown must be in the 8-to-10 pound weight. A problem arises because the county fair is in late July, and the State Fair is not until late August. It takes chickens approximately eight weeks to reach 8 to 10 pounds, so a second batch, this year 25 additional baby chicks, were purchased if Carl wants to show his poultry at the state level.

“We eat a lot of chickens,” Cindy said. “This last year we had a good plan. We belong to St. John’s and they have soup and sandwich suppers during Lent, and they got chicken soup. We boiled chickens every week during Lent for chicken soup.”

The Heuer children show a great interest in all of the agriculture opportunities that they have been given.

It is not surprising to find Courtney, who will be a senior this year at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, looking at a career in small animal science.

“I might look at studying nutrition for pets and develop different kinds of foods for good animal nutrition,” Courtney said.

Carl is still very undecided about what his future will be. Roger hesitated with regards to what the farming future will hold for Carl when the time comes. “I don’t know, with the way things are going,” Roger said.

“It depends on his level of interest,” Cindy said.

“We will see what he wants to do,” Roger concluded. “He has time left.”

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