Farm Horizons, April 2012

Wright County’s Young Farmers are an active, award-winning group

By Jennifer Kotila

For the second year in a row, the Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) program in Wright County won recognition from the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation for being the top program in the state in 2011, due, in part, to the leadership of Dave and Julie Marquardt of Howard Lake.

The Young Farmers & Ranchers program includes both men and women between the ages of 18-35 who are Farm Bureau members. Its objective is to provide leadership in building a more effective Farm Bureau to preserve individual freedoms, and expand opportunities in agriculture.

This year will be Dave’s third year as chair of Wright County’s Young Farmers and Ranchers program, with Julie assisting him. “As Dave would say, he does all the meetings, and I do all the planning,” Julie said. They were nominated for the position by current Wright County Farm Bureau president, and former chair of the YF&R program, Dan Glessing, and his wife, Seena, of Waverly, and appointed by the executive committee of the Wright County Farm Bureau

Together, the Marquardts plan and coordinate numerous events throughout the year for the approximately 40 YF&R members in Wright County. Recently, the group had its annual winter gathering, going out for an evening of pizza and bowling without the kids, Julie said. In the summer, the group gathers for a family picnic day. Another fun event for YF&R members in the summer is attending a Twins game, which is coordinated by the Minnesota YF&R program.

Social gatherings allow YF&R members to get together, have fun, and network. “It gets them excited and interested in YF&R. They are willing to be more active,” Julie said.

The group is not only about getting together to have fun, though. A lot of hard work is done at the state and federal level advocating for farmers. The couple started a Facebook page a couple of years ago for Wright County’s YF&R program. “It keeps YF&R members informed about what is going on at the state level that they can get involved in,” Julie said.

“We meet on the hill every year at the end of February, getting together to visit with legislators from our area,” Dave said, noting there was usually a pretty good turnout at the state YF&R convention, as well.

Last September, the couple earned a trip to Washington, DC to visit with legislators because Wright County was named best YF&R program in the state. “We’re looking to send another young couple this year,” Dave said, explaining that he and Julie also won a trip to DC through another YF&R event.

Although YF&R program members have to be members of Farm Bureau, they do not have to be actively farming, Julie noted. “They don’t have to be involved in agriculture, they just have to care about the issues – have an agricultural, rural mind set,” she said, noting many of Wright County’s YF&R members are hunters not involved in farming.

The Marquardts attribute the Wright County YF&R program’s strength to the number of young farmers in Wright County. “There are a lot of younger-generation farmers in Wright County,” Julie said. It also doesn’t hurt that Wright County’s Farm Bureau is led by a young president, Glessing.

“It’s not the norm (to have so many young farmers). The average age of farmers is 65, nowadays,” Dave said. “For us to have an area where the next generation is into farming is fairly unique.”

Dave has also noticed that many of the farms in Wright County are diversified, raising both livestock and crops, which helps to accommodate a young son or daughter who wants to get into farming, he said. “When you’re just a crop farmer, you have to run more acres to prosper,” he added.

While the Marquardts are happy about winning the award for top YF&R program in the state, they did not aspire to win, and it was not their intention to win two years in a row. “We hope that other counties step up and win it,” Julie said. Because Wright County’s YF&R program has done so well, McLeod County’s YF&R, which is a small group just getting started, is looking to them for guidance, Julie said.

The Marquardts have two sons, Adam, 3, and Brant, 1. Together with Dave’s parents, Rod and Pat Marquardt, the couple farms about 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa, and raises about 250 head of steers. Julie is also a substitute teacher in the Dassel-Cokato School District.

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