Myn maulsby

Vision for sustainability earns Maulsby top honor

Darcy Maulsby is inspiring and connecting generations and communities through her decades of conservation stewardship.
For her efforts, Maulsby was named 2023 Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Maulsby’s passion for conservation led her to become a commissioner with the Calhoun County Soil and Water Conservation District, where she extends her commitment and passion to her community. Maulsby also helps organize events like the Calhoun County Extension and Outreach’s windbreak meeting, attracting participants from across Iowa, allowing her to network and engage in discussions about conservation.
Jeremy Viles, district conservationist with NRCS in Calhoun County, approached Maulsby about becoming a commissioner.
“We probably met about 15 years ago,” Viles said. “I would listen to her speak at various events and read her articles. She is extremely active in promoting conservation in our communities. I knew she would be a good fit.”
Maulsby purchased land close to her families’ land and used Resource Enhancement and Protection funds to rejuvenate a windbreak on five acres. She planted native trees, including red cedars and oaks, alongside an array of shrubs, reawakening the ecosystem on her land.
“The resources that organizations, counties and our federal government provide could make all the difference for young people and those just starting out,” Maulsby said. “I have written about NRCS, specifically, for years. It has been great learning more about the resources available and sharing this knowledge with landowners.”
Maulsby utilizes her talents as a journalist and published author to share Iowa’s history about conservation from what she has learned from local farmers and her own research. Her stories, along with those of fellow conservationists, instill a sense of responsibility to protect precious resources for future generations. She envisions a brighter future for rural Iowa, where conservation is a cornerstone.
She says she hopes younger generations see opportunities out there.
“I always like to go to Jeremy to get his perspective because I don’t know that young people necessarily think about a career within our or conservation as ag-related or even an option right here in the county,” Maulsby said.
The Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year is selected annually by the Iowa NRCS Federal Women’s Program Committee. The award recognizes a woman who has made significant contributions to conservation and the improvement of Iowa’s natural resources conservation through achievements on her own land, her career or voluntary efforts.
Myn millers

Miller family named Murray County 2023 Farm Family of the Year

Sirrina Martinez
Multimedia reporter

In August of 2023, the family of Todd and Joan Miller were named Farm Family of the Year for Murray County. A family of first generation farmers, the Millers started their operation in 1999 after Todd took over for a producer that he had worked for, Joan said.
“Todd worked for Dennis Swan, a local farm and cattle producer from south of Balaton,” she said. “When Dennis retired from both, Todd had the opportunity to take over his farming operation.”
Todd began farming when he was 15-years-old, growing up in rural Balaton where his father was an on-farm John Deere mechanic and farmer. Her upbringing, Joan said, was on a dairy farm near Lismore. Together they keep their family and business going by relying on their experience, Joan said.
“We are both used to the hard work and the dedication it takes to make things work,” she said.
Over the years the 435 acre operation that the Millers run changed from cattle and swine finishing to a cash crop business with soybeans and corn, Joan said. The family owns and operates the farm with limited outside help aside from three hired hands who help with tillage, planting, harvesting and hauling. The Millers have one full-time farm laborer, Dylan Swan, who helps with an assortment of things around the farm or at the truck wash, Joan said. In return, the family has helped Swan get started in the farming business by giving him some of their land. Also employed by the family are two retired men who help with tillage in the spring and operating combines in the fall. The family is extremely grateful for the help they’ve received over the years, Joan said.
“We are thankful for all the great employees we have had over the years and that we currently have,” she said.
Aside from owning an acreage, the family cash rents and share rents an additional 2,800 acres. Todd also does custom farming for neighbors, Joan said.
In addition to running their busy operation, in 2007, the Millers started T&J Trucking based out of Balaton. They started with one semi and grain trailer, which they hired Todd’s brother to drive. The company hauled grain to and from local cooperatives. In 2015, they expanded their business by purchasing Gilford Trucking out of Balaton, taking over the former owner’s clientele and purchasing his livestock trailers and semis, Joan said.
“We currently have two full-time drivers and two part-time drivers that haul grain, fertilizer and cattle and hogs to market,” she said. “Todd also drives when he is available.”
In 2016, the Millers built T&J Truck Wash four miles west of Lake Shetek. The facility is open to the public, Joan said, for livestock haulers to wash their trailers, or local farmers to clean their equipment.
Outside of running their operation, the Millers are members of Skandia Free Church near Balaton, the Murray County Corn and Soybean Growers Association, the Murray County Cattlemen, and the Murray County Farm Service Agency.
Todd and Joan have three daughters; Casey, who is a freshman pursuing a degree in elementary education at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Kelly, who is a junior at Murray County Central (MCC) high school and Katherine who is a freshman at MCC. The girls help out by driving tractors, mowing the lawn and moving equipment. The family works together to ensure the success of the business, and everyone appreciates the sacrifices it takes, Joan said.
“Todd is quick to point out that he would not be where he is today without his wife and three daughters standing by his side,” she said. “They have always been understanding of why dad isn’t around for all their activities and trips. He is always working and providing. It is teamwork to make it in the farming industry in today’s world.”
The family is thankful for being named Farm Family of the Year, Joan said.
“We feel honored to represent Murray County as the Farm Family of the Year,” she said.
Myn sukalski

Martin County farmer earns USB reappointment

Martin County farmer Lawrence Sukalski has been reappointed to the United Soybean Board by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
USB recently added four new farmer-leaders to serve as directors. Along with Sukalski, 14 farmer-leaders were reappointed. These USB Directors from 18 states were sworn in for service during the USB December meeting in St. Charles, Mo.
“Each of these farmer-leaders will have a significant impact on the soy checkoff’s ability to build demand, enhance reputation and increase the resilience of our U.S. soybean crop,” said Meagan Kaiser, USB chair. “I’m proud of our farmer-led board that volunteers their time to look ahead and think big picture to ensure U.S. Soy remains a leader in forging partnerships to deliver sustainable solutions to every life, every day.”
Sukalski, who began farming in 1977, and his wife, Diane, are fifth-generation farmers in Martin County where they grow corn and soybeans with the help of his brother, Harlan. Also helping out on the farm are their children, Jacob, Andrew, Kristina, Michael and Suzy. Sukalski has represented Minnesota on USB for six years and is a member of USB’s value alignment committee. He said the organization, which directs the national soybean checkoff, is well-positioned to thrive and improve the farm economy in the years ahead.
“The checkoff is the best thing we have going for us as farmers,” Sukalski said. “We’re seeing $12.34 in return value for every checkoff dollar invested. I’m so proud of the checkoff and what it’s accomplished.”
Sukalski, who also represents farmers on the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, also promotes biodiesel in his role on the Clean Fuels Alliance America board and is excited about the future of the industry.
“We’re making strides on biodiesel, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, and I think we’re only going to see more movement,” he said. “It’s definitely made a difference in the market. Sometimes, we’re getting more out of the bushel with the 20 percent of the oil than we are with 80 percent of the meal. There’s a lot of good, positive stuff happening.”
The soy checkoff seeks to provide value to farmers through investments that build preference for U.S. soybeans across the country and throughout the world. Authorized by the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the checkoff is composed of 77 members representing 29 states, in addition to the Eastern and Western regions. The number of seats on the board and farmer representation is based on bushels produced in each of the production regions. Members must be soybean farmers nominated by a qualified state soybean board, such as the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.
“Our board of directors grow and raise more than 30 different commodities, but U.S. Soy is the common denominator that brings us all together,” said Steve Reinhard, USB vice chair. “We have an impressive roster of new and returning board members, and collectively we can make meaningful inroads that bring value to our half-million U.S. soybean farmers’ bottom line.”
Sukalski is joined on USB by fellow Minnesota farmers Tom Frisch, Patrick O’Leary and Gene Stoel.
“They’re a good group,” Sukalski said. “We’ve got people who will speak up for Minnesota, so there’s a lot of good, positive stuff happening. The people that we work with are the cream of the crop and they’re very dedicated, both in Minnesota and the national level. They’re serious about the farmers’ checkoff money. It’s not there to get wasted.”
Myn halbur

Halbur named 2023 Pipestone District Outstanding Conservationist of the Year

By Sirrina Martinez

The family of Eugene and Linda Halbur of rural Jasper was named the 2023 Outstanding Conservationist of the Year for the Pipestone County District by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD). The award recognizes individuals or organizations for their accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving the state’s natural resources.
The Halburs currently raise soybeans and corn, and manage a small cow/calf herd and some pasture. Over the years they have implemented various conservation practices including no-till, cover crops, grassed waterways, tree replacement/planting and manure management.
Married in 1983. Eugene and Linda were living in Mankato when the opportunity arose to return home to farm in 1984. The building site that the family started out on was purchased from L.H. and Helen Gorter in 1989, and sat about a mile and a half from Eugene’s parents’ home. Some of the land they currently farm has been in the family for awhile, Eugene said.
“Some of the land has been in the family since 1945,” he said. “It was purchased by my grandfather, Paul Pierret. My dad, Ralph Halbur purchased it and farmed it from 1966 until he retired in 1993.  We started farming with my dad when we came home in 1984.”
Now, Eugene and Linda’s son-in-law and daughter, David and Danielle Dimond, as well as their boys Brantley, Sawyer and Malachi, are helping them farm some of the land. David also works at CHS an Danielle is a special education teacher at Southwest West Central Co-Op.
His family has dabbled in no-till practices in the past in a highly eroded field, Eugene said. Then, in 2019, when Pipestone County Soil and Water visited their property and conducted a soil assessment, the family was inspired to further explore conservatory practices in their operation.
“They demonstrated and explained about soil structure and the effects of tilling,” he said. “I was intrigued enough to try no-till, initially in a few fields. We have always had grass waterways. We are now reconstructing waterways that have eroded and filled in over time.  I started some no-till in 2020, some no-till and cover crops in 2021 and completely no-till with more cover crop by 2023. I have done the manure management starting in 2023.”
The impact of their conservation work has been observable in multiple ways, Eugene said.
“We have noticed heavy rain events have not resulted in washing in fields,” he said. “The crop consultant has said that soil testing in my soil is easier than soil testing in tilled fields.  Soil sample cores show good root systems and worm holes. We have noticed a significant reduction of fuel costs.  This year was a dry year and our soil held the moisture well.  Soil structure is what allows moisture and nutrients to move through the soil.  Tilling destroys the soil structure.”
Seeing the visible changes around the farm has been wonderful, Eugene said, and he is excited to be able to improve the integrity of the soil for the next generation of farmers. The family is honored by the recognition of their work, he said.
“It is nice to have recognition for the work and the change,” he said. “I was initially worried what my dad would say when I proposed to make the drastic change to no-till. His response was, ‘You’ll never know unless you try.’”
Myn rachel daberkow

Love of learning pays off for rural appraiser

Rachel Daberkow of Okabena loves learning.
That fact served her well recently as a nearly decade-long process of learning paid off in a big way.
Daberkow was recently awarded the “Accredited Rural Appraiser” designation from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers at the society’s national meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
Daberkow earned the ARA designation by meeting stringent requirements in experience and education, in addition to passing rigorous written examination and abiding by the society’s code of ethics. She joins a select 43 percent of the ASFMRA membership that has received the accredited status and currently maintains it through the ASFMRA continuing education program.
“This was quite a long process if you consider I started taking the upper-level courses in 2014 and started my demonstration report in 2018,” Daberkow said. “I have a love for learning and challenging myself to be a better rural appraiser every day. Providing financial insight through asset valuation looks different for each farm family I work with — mostly through lending transactions, but also for change in ownership, estate settling or for financial planning.
Accredited rural appraisers understand the changing face of the appraisal industry and can ensure an appraisal complies with regulations and requirements. Rural appraisers work on a wide range of property types found in rural areas and are capable of navigating the complexities involved in rural property valuation. In addition, accredited rural appraisers possess specialized expertise beyond state certification and licensing requirements and are connected to a national network of professional resources and information.
The ASFMRA is the largest professional society for rural property land experts, boasting more than 2,100 members in 31 chapters throughout the United States.
Myn bossuyt

Bossuyt family is Lyon County Farm Family of the Year

Sirrina Martinez
Multimedia reporter

In Lyon County just three miles south of Cottonwood on County Road 9 sits a hobby farm owned and operated by Brad Bossuyt. In August of this year, the Bossuyt family was named Lyon County’s Farm Family of the Year, a hard earned honor for many reasons.
Around 25 years ago, Bossuyt purchased the farm from an uncle who had bought it some years prior from another gentleman. His farm ventures include raising a few head of cattle every year that end up filling the freezers of his family and friends, and raising goats for 4-H projects that are sold to local kids or at club sales. In their youth, his two sons, Anthony, 26, and Colin, 24, actively participated in 4-H and have been helping on the farm by feeding animals and taking care of babies from a young age.
“My sons are both older now, so we sell them to friends or take them to club sales,” he said. “4-H families from here to Iowa buy them and take them home, raise them up and work with them all summer.”
When his sons were young and heavily involved in the 4-H organization, Bossuyt served as a goat superintendent and hung onto the title for some time after they were done. Now, he helps by running the show rings, lining up the kids for competition, rounding up donations from businesses, soliciting bidders to come to shows and mentoring youth participants in any way that he can. Bossuyt, who was active in 4-H in his youth, recalls showing everything from sheep to pigs and cattle, that he raised himself.
“Back then we raised our own whether it was the farm pig from the farm yard or steer from the pen,” he said. “We didn’t go to club sales and buy them we just picked one from our own herd at home. Whether it was a blue or red ribbon we took a little pride that it was from our own livestock.”
In November of 2021, Bossuyt faced what would have been a major setback for many when he was in an accident on his farm. While baling hay, his leg became pinned between a tractor and a large round bale. After trying to free himself by cutting away the bale with a pocket knife and trying to wave down cars passing his farm, Bossuyt realized his best course of action was to save his energy to try to get through the cold November night. After 14 hours, a neighbor and good friend from down the road found him and called for help. As as result of the accident, Bossuyt lost part of his leg, but not his drive to keep going.
Not to be kept down for long, he continues to live a life of business as usual, working everyday to overcome the obstacles that the accident created. Recalling the initial days that he was in the hospital in Sioux Falls, Bossuyt remembers planning to buy cattle to add to his operation. When questioned by family as to why he was making plans for the farm so soon after his accident, he told them he had every intention of going back to his regular routine when he was discharged.
“I said ‘I’m going home someday,’” he said. “If I’m gonna go home to the farm and not have animals and do what I enjoy then I might as well move to town. It’s all been an adjustment but you kind of learn your limits and try to get around them or make do with what you can do.”
As for his nomination for Lyon County Farm Family of the Year, Bossuyt humbly accepted the honor, although he put up resistance at first.
“I didn’t know anything about it until they selected me and I tried to deny the nomination,” he said. “They said ‘Well we would be awful disappointed if you didn’t accept it.’ I said I don’t really know if I am the deserving one with having just a little hobby farm.”
The committee, however, insisted that he was more than deserving, based on his lengthy track record of community service and his continued dedication despite the physical set backs he faced. Over the past two years, Bossuyt has continued to work hard to overcome those obstacles and be able to serve the community, all while undergoing years of physical therapy.
Although his role has changed, he continues to go to work at the grain elevator in Hanley Falls where he drove semi truck for 25 years prior to the accident. Additionally, Bossuyt has been a member of the Cottonwood Fire Department for almost 30 years, and he still goes on calls and helps the department in any capacity that he can. Serving on the department has been a long term commitment that has provided a host of benefits including friendship, he said.
“What’s kept me there is the friendship and the community service,” he said. “There’s a camaraderie involved in hanging out with the boys a couple of nights of week and serving the community together.”
Outside of all of his responsibilities, Bossuyt enjoys spending time with family and friends, taking rides in the side-by-side, deer hunting and fishing when he can, helping out friends with their farm and carpentry projects and tinkering around on his own farm with little projects when weather permits. Around the second week of gun season for deer here in Minnesota, Bossuyt was preparing himself mentally for the two year anniversary of his accident. With a little luck, he was able to find another reason to smile after he harvested a whitetail deer.
“A little sugar on the cake, I ended up shooting a really nice whitetail deer that second Saturday of deer hunting,” he said. “It put a little smile on my face and lifted me up for that weekend.”
There are many people and life experiences that Bossuyt credits to his attitude of perseverance, including family, friends, community members and even playing sports and growing up on the farm. If it weren’t for those around him, he said, his success would not have been what it is.
“If it wasn’t for parents, siblings and children helping out, leading me the right way it would not have been possible,” he said. “Even the farm experience. I have been around livestock since I could walk. When I was two I was out with dad in the milk barn and my little or bigger brother. Then the older you get it’s more chores and field work, and so it’s been a part of me and it’s one of those things that it is not easy to walk away from and it gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Old football coaches and friends, people like that, I give a lot of credit to high school sports and other things in life that weren’t so tragic as this but weren’t easy and I think ‘I got through that, I can get through this.’ I say, ‘Don’t stand in my way, just stand alongside of me and we will get through  this.’”
Myn robert craven

Local farmer – and U of M ag economist – lands prestigious honor

An ag economist with the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota — who doubles as a Jackson County farmer — is the recipient of the prestigious Blanchfield Award from the American Bankers Association.
Robert Craven, associate director of the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota, received the award at the ABA Agricultural Bankers Conference earlier this month in Oklahoma City.
“I’m surprised, honored and humbled to receive this award,” said Craven, a rural Jackson native. “Educators that have won this in the past have all been folks I’ve looked up to during my career.”
Craven’s career first kickstarted when ABA, the University of Minnesota and community banks in the state provided funds and hired him to test computerized credit analysis systems, which eventually became FINPACK. His connection to ABA continued to grow, and he has now presented at ABA’s National Agricultural Bankers Conference for more than 20 years.
Craven, who has been employed at University of Minnesota for 41 years, has been part of the Center for Farm Financial Management since its start and served 22 years as its director. In 2000, he co-founded the national schools for beginning and experienced agriculture bankers that he currently co-leads with the South Dakota Bankers Association. He was also an instructor for more than 15 years at the Midwest Banking Institute.
With a background in economics and agriculture, Craven predicts a bumpy road ahead for ag, but believes the industry is in a good position to handle it.
“Since we’re coming out of a high-profitability period for agriculture, the next few years are going to be a little more difficult in terms of profitability, especially within livestock,” said Craven. “I think the industry has good liquidity and it should be able to get through it OK.”
Raised on the family farm south of Jackson, Craven has always had a natural affinity for agriculture and today helps run the soybean and corn farm passed down from his grandparents to his father to him. He drives nearly three hours from his home in St. Paul to rural Jackson to tend to the land during planting and harvest seasons every year. But he doesn’t do it alone. Craven, a father of one son, also has two sisters, a nephew and an 86-year-old mother who get involved during harvest.
“I’m most proud of having a really satisfying career serving agriculture and the people in that industry,” said Craven.
Outside of the farm, Craven enjoys traveling and hiking. He began working half time with his role at the University of Minnesota beginning this past summer and plans to use the free time to focus on traveling with his spouse. It will also mean a little more time at the family farm where he plans to farm for several more years.
Established in 2015 in honor of John Blanchfield, former senior vice president of ABA’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking, the Blanchfield Award recognizes the contributions of a non-banker who has made significant additions to the advancement of agricultural lending.