Farm Family of the YearPublished 9:35am Thursday, March 17, 2011
ALDEN — Dan Erickson likes to take his kids out to do chores with him.
“What other occupation can you have your kids with you like that?” he said to about 150 people as he and his family accepted the 2011 Farm Family of the Year award on Tuesday.
Dan and his wife, Jenny, farm about 700 acres near Alden. Over the past 12 years, they’ve grown their operation to include mostly corn and soybeans with a little alfalfa. They also raise dairy heifers, and have about 450 head in the herd now.
Dan also travels to 10 counties in southern Minnesota as a regional representative for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. He’s also a volunteer firefighter on the Alden Fire Department.
Jenny is a special education teacher and a member of the parent teacher organization at Alden-Conger School District. She also teaches Sunday school at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Alden.
Dan grew up on the farm and continues to work alongside his parents, Chuck and Karen, who also farm about 700 acres near Alden.
“I started with my parents and, over time, got my own acres and cattle,” he said.
Now that they’re getting a little older, Dan and Jenny’s children, Grace, 8, Tyler, 4 1/2, and Karina, 22 months, have also started to show interest in farming.
“Even the youngest begs to come do chores,” Dan said.
Grace joined the Alden 4-H group, the Cloverbuds, and got her first baby calf last year, whom she named Calvin. Grace and Tyler showed Calvin at the baby animal show at the Freeborn County Fair last summer — their first time showing animals at the fair.
It’s an interest Dan hopes to keep instilled in his children for many years to come.
“You look around, and there aren’t many young farmers,” he said. “The times keep changing. It use to be if all else failed, you could come back to the family farm, but it’s not that way anymore.”
He credits his parents for helping him get his start.
“There’s just too much capital and too much risk to do it on your own,” he said.
His goal is to keep growing and eventually take over his parents’ farming operations when they retire.
Dan and Jenny were surprised and honored to receive the 2011 Farm Family of the Year award and look at this as another way to keep promoting agriculture in the community.
Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce agriculture committee chairman Parnell Thorson said the Ericksons were chosen because of their long list of community service and diversified farming operations.
According to Tami Jensen of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber and the ag committee, families chosen for the award must be full-time farmers for at least five years, must be involved in the community and must not have received this award in the past. The winner must also be able to attend the annual Ag Luncheon in March and Farmfest in August. The announcement of the Farm Family of the Year came Tuesday at the annual Ag
Luncheon at the Fairlane Building of the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.
Jensen said a subcommittee made up of ag committee members and former Farm Family of the Year award recipients choose from nominations. Nominations can be submitted by farm families, but most are submitted by friends, families or neighbors.
This year, the committee received eight nominations. That includes nominations carried over from the previous year, as Jensen said once nominations are received they can stay on the list for three years.
“It’s always a really hard decision, because anyone who’s ever been nominated has been worthy of receiving it,” Jensen said.