Press Release 2019

University of Minnesota salutes 2019 Farm Families of the Year   

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/16/2019) — Eighty-four families from throughout Minnesota are being honored as 2019 Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota.

The farm families will be recognized in ceremonies beginning at 1:10 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 8, at the annual Minnesota Farmfest on the Gilfillan Estate near Redwood Falls. The event is in the Wick Buildings Farmfest Center on the estate grounds.

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel will open the program in her first visit to Farmfest. She began her duties July 1.   

The families were chosen, one per county, by local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture.

“The University of Minnesota takes pride in honoring these families. The farm families receiving this year's honors exemplify what makes Minnesota agriculture strong,” Extension Dean Bev Durgan said. “They bring innovation, science and hard work to farming. They care greatly about the land and animals and delivering quality products to consumers worldwide.”

A sampling of farmers and their contributions to agriculture follows. All the 2019 farm families are profiled at:

Benton County, Chmielewski Family  

The Chmielewskis’ Stoney Brook Farms was purchased by Mark in 2006 from his mother, Shirley. Mark is chief executive officer of the 800-acre operation. Of that, 600 acres are in vegetable production, growing asparagus, snap peas, green beans, sweet corn, winter squash and several different types of pumpkins. The family also raises field corn and soybeans. 

Mark and his wife, Pam, operate a vegetable stand in St. Cloud. They also create a corn maze and pumpkin patch for visitors in the fall and provide farm tours to area schools and day care centers.

Mark runs the farm with his son, Brad. Brad’s wife, Ashley, helps with office work and plans and runs the corn maze. Pam handles office work and runs the vegetable stand and pumpkin patch.

Stoney Brook Farms was recognized as the 600th farm in the state to be certified by the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program. The family is involved with the farm to school effort and provides produce to area schools and day care centers. They also donate produce to Second Harvest Heartland and other charities and to area fundraising efforts. 

Chippewa County, Lee Family 

The Lee farm has its roots in the 1940s; Jerry and Ruth Ann started farming by Dawson in 1974. Later they moved near Watson and continued to farm. Their son, Jason, joined the operation in 2009.

The Lees grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa and grass on about 1,150 acres. Jason, along with his wife, Autumn, and their children run a commercial cattle herd along with registered Herefords dating back to Jason’s grandfather’s original herd. The family has a commercial sheep flock and a flock of registered Katahdin Hair sheep. They raise Great Danes and care for a few farm cats, chickens and ducks. 

A big challenge for the Lees over the years has been the Chippewa River that flows through their land. The river and the erosion it can cause, especially after a major rainfall, resulted in the Lees making a significant investment in erosion control. The family worked with several local agencies to establish erosion control measures along the river bank. The effort was so successful the Lees were honored as the 2018 Chippewa Soil and Water Conservation District Conservationists of the Year. 

The Lees are involved in the Watson Lions Club and their local corn and soybean growers associations. They are active in their church and the children participate in many different project areas through 4-H. Ruth Ann is involved in the Montevideo Cultural Diversity Council.

Freeborn County, Steve and Linda Kraushaar 

The Kraushaar family farm was purchased in the 1940s by Steve’s grandfather. In the fall of 1973, Steve’s father and grandfather purchased a neighboring farm to help Steve and Linda launch their farming careers. Now their son, Sean, along with his wife, Krissy, and son, Liam, will take the reins in a partnership with Steve and Linda. The Kraushaars also have a daughter, Lisa, and another son, Scott, who is married to Katie.

The Kraushaars currently grow 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans. They are innovative conservation stewards who were early developers of ridge tilling, which they continue to practice. The family is now incorporating cover crops on their land. 

Community service is important to Steve and Linda. Steve is currently a member of the Cedar River Watershed representing Freeborn County. He’s also a member of the Minnesota Corn and Soybean Associations. Steve and Linda are both first responders and Steve is a fireman with the Myrtle Fire Department. The Kraushaars are lifelong members of Trondheim Lutheran Church, where they serve on the church council and Linda teaches Sunday school. They also volunteer with Real Hope for the Hungry, a locally based organization that packages meals which are distributed locally and nationally. 

Linda spearheaded an effort to open a women’s health and birthing center in Haiti, a project that began at their church and rippled into surrounding communities. The center opened last fall. 

MD Partnership, Rock County

Mark Dahl and Diane Kennedy were high school sweethearts and both were members of the Sweet Strivers 4-H Club of Pipestone County. Diane showed sheep and Mark showed cattle. They both attended the University of Minnesota and were married in 1986. 

After Diane finished medical school and a family medicine residency, the couple purchased a small farm near Luverne. In 1994, they bought their first four Angus cows, which became the foundation of their current herd. Mark and Diane have a small cow/calf operation, both purebred Angus and Maine Anjou. 

Mark and Diane raised three daughters on their farm: Jessa, Kat and Ellen. Their children were all active in 4-H and loved showing cattle. All three have moved on to their own careers but help out on the farm when they can. Mark and Diane continue to be big supporters of 4-H by helping other kids with their projects and Mark is a mentor and leader. 

He has served on the livestock committee at the Rock County Fair and is always willing to introduce young people to the world of showing cattle. Diane spent many years coaching basketball, volleyball and softball and served as a 4-H leader. She is very active in her church and serves on multiple hospital boards and committees. 

Todd County, Cooperativa Agua, Gorda Familia Garcia

In 1993, the Garcias moved from Mexico to California. They worked with fruit, grapes, peaches and plums. In 2000, the family moved to Long Prairie in central Minnesota. 

In 2012, the family began their farm with just half an acre. Two years later they expanded to six acres. Last year, the operation expanded to nine acres of land in production of a variety of fruits and vegetables including tomatillos, watermelon, cantaloupe, jalapeno and bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes. They also raise spinach, radishes, cilantro, peppers and tomatoes in a greenhouse.

All produce is sold through Twin Cities-based Shared Ground Farmers’ Cooperative. Agua Gorda has been a member of Shared Ground for four years. 

Javier runs the operation while maintaining full-time employment at Twin Eagle Dairy. His wife, Marina, is also employed at Twin Eagle Dairy and works part-time on the farm. The Garcias’ son, Carlos, works part-time on the farm while maintaining a job off the farm. Jose Garcia, Javier’s brother, is co-owner of the operation. He also owns and operates a grocery store and restaurant in Long Prairie called Mi Pueblito. Up to five others help out during the busy harvest season.

The Garcias are involved with the produce wholesaler Minnesota Fresh in Long Prairie and the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle farm-to-school program. The family enjoys giving presentations on their farming practices.   

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, Extension news media manager,, 612-626-4077 (office) or 651-492-0811 (mobile). 

For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact  Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.


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