Myn twolittlebees

Family breathes new life into former dairy farm

A former dairy farm outside of Garretson, SD, is once again buzzing with activity as a you-pick flower farm.
Two Little Bees Family Farm, owned by Kyle and Brittany Lessman, will open for you-pick events on Friday and Sunday evenings beginning the middle of July and running through the first frost. The you-pick nights will be operated as pre-sold, ticketed events to keep crowds limited and ensure a relaxed, enjoyable time for guests.

A farm's evolution
The you-pick flower field is the latest in the evolution of the Lessmans' 17-acre family farm, which once served as the heifer farm for Brittany's family dairy. After the decision to close the dairy in 2018, the farm's cattle lots sat empty for a couple of years before Kyle came up with the admittedly "kind-of-crazy idea" to plant them with pumpkins.
The family began selling specialty pumpkins at the Brandon, SD, Farmers Market in 2020, and Two Little Bees Pumpkins and Produce — named after the Lessmans' two young children, whose names both begin with the letter B — was born.
The size of the pumpkin patch doubled in 2021 and doubled again in 2022, producing more than 30 different varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds. In 2021, the farm added its Truck Bed Farm Stand — built from a 1950s Ford pickup bed — to its farmers market setup.
In 2022, Kyle Lessman planted a small flower field to — as he said — see if he could grow flowers.
"The flowers grew," he said, "so we had to figure out something to do with them."
They began selling about five bouquets a week at the local coffee shop, Annie's Coffee Bar, in Garretson. They also gave away about as many as they sold that year to family, friends and local nursing homes.
The Lessmans added an on-farm farm stand in 2023, from which they sold flower bouquets, pumpkins and squash, greeting cards and excess garden produce.
They expanded the flower side of the business in 2023 and started offering summer flower subscriptions. With a flower subscription, customers prepay for eight weeks of bouquets throughout the growing season. Flower types and color schemes change each week, but by being a summer flower subscription member, customers are guaranteed to receive the farm's freshest, most premium cuts in every bouquet. Pickup locations include the farm stand and Quality Printing in Luverne.
Spurred by the support and excitement of their community, the Lessmans made the decision to expand the farm even more for the 2024 season, adding eight 6-foot-wide-by-50-foot-long rows of zinnias, sunflowers, snapdragons, dahlias, rudbeckia, celosia, gomphrena, feverfew and amaranth — 2,400 square feet in total — which they plan to open up to the public next month for you-pick events.

Sharing the joy
The flower fields sit in the farm's rolling front pasture directly across the drive from the farm stand. With a view of the farm's idyllic white barn, the Lessmans envision the you-pick events having a relaxed feel, allowing guests to unwind and enjoy the beautiful flowers and rural setting.
The Lessmans say they are excited to welcome guests to their farm.
"After the cows left, it felt like the life of the farm left with them," Brittany Lessman said. "We're working hard to bring that life back for our kids. We're also excited to share it with our community."
Kyle Lessman said that excitement extends to their kiddos — the two little Bs after whom the farm is named and who are as much a part of its growth and newfound vitality as anyone.
"It is a true family farm, with even the littlest hands helping sow seeds, water and pull weeds," he said. "And we're having fun with it too — a lot of picnics in the flower field and breaks from weeding to play catch."
You-pick event tickets are available now online at twolittlebeespumpkinsandproduce.com. Each ticket purchase includes a 20-ounce paper drink cup into which guests can fit as many flowers as they like. Floral snips will be available for guests to borrow.
Myn cunningham

Cunningham farm to be featured in Japanese documentary

Sirrina Martinez
Multimedia reporter


Recently, a Japanese film crew visited the rural Pipestone County farm of Ian and Richard Cunningham of Cunningham Family Farm LLC, as part of a documentary they are producing about soil health. The production is for NHK, a public television station in Japan. The crew arrived at sunrise on Monday, May 20 and left the evening of Wednesday, May 22. They plan to return again in the fall, Ian said.
The director for the documentary, Naoki Yonemoto of Tokoyo, said that the purpose of the project is to bring awareness to the importance of soil health and the impact that events such as the war in the Ukraine has on such an important natural resource.
"There is a great interest in soil health all over the world," Yonemoto said. "The initial start of the idea was the war in the Ukraine. Soil is uniquely important on earth. No other planets have soil and it's very important relationship to have living things on earth and it's a symbiotic relationship. It's also something that people don't think about. It's like the air and you never really think about them until you don't have them anymore."
The soil that they are focused on, known as black soil, is not as widely found as one might think.
"The unique soil that we are focused on, the easy name is black soil, but it's only available in parts of the Ukraine, part of Northern China and the prairies of the central U.S.," Yonemoto said.
The war in the Ukraine is having negative impacts on the soil, Yonemoto said.
"War in the Ukraine is very damaging to the soil and it's hard to reverse the damages created through bombing and those things," he said. "They are also known for wheat production and I think canola oil and wheat is what they are famous for."
The current war in the Ukraine is impacting food production, Ian said, and the soil, the black soil that is found there is similar to what has developed in this area.
"Ukraine has Mollisol/Chernozem soils like the soil that was developed in the tallgrass prairie where we farm," he said. "They were interested in the regenerative methods we use on our farm."
Ura Kondo, an independent field producer for the project and interpreter for the director and team said that she found the Cunningham farm through research.
"I was in charge of researching and finding a farm that was representative of good practices and through the Soil Health Institute's research, one of the farms that was featured with all the data was Cunningham farm," she said. "They were very responsive and we love being here. They are a great example."
The crew is also filming in the Ukraine and China. They expect the production to air in December or early 2025. Whether or not it will be available in the United States has not been determined.
"We do have an English channel here but that is limited," Kondo said. "If our program is suitable for that audience we might be able to do that but we will see."
The soil conservation practices that the Cunningham's use are what drew attention of the production crew, Ian said,
"In 2019 Richard and I participated in a Soil Health Economic case study for the Soil Health Institute and the National Association of Conservation Districts," Ian said. "When the producer was doing research for the story, she came across the case study. Further Cunningham farm to be featured in Japanese documentary online searching found that we are NACD Soil Health Champions and that I had testified before congress on Soil Health."
Ian, who has been a Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor for 25 1/2 years, said that having the ability to bring awareness to the importance of caring for natural resources is something that is important to his family.
"Many people are unaware of how farmers care for natural resources and how food is produced," he said. "We appreciate the opportunity to tell our story firsthand."
The Cunningham farm is Minnesota Ag Water Quality certified and was one of the first farms in Pipestone County to become certified. They are also National Association of Conservation District Soil Health Champions. Richard went to Houston this past winter to work at the Commodity Classic to talk to people about soil health, Ian said.
The farm has been with the Cunningham family since Ian's great-grandparents, Charles and Jennie, were the first people to farm the home place.
"The farm was purchased from the Milwaukee railroad in 1883, they began farming in 1885," he said. "In each of the generations the farmer inherited a portion and purchased the remaining interest from the other heirs. Additional land has been purchased throughout the years."
The family has always raised livestock, and they currently own a beef cow herd and feed out the calves. The Cunninghams have also had many different livestock enterprises throughout the years, Ian said. Currently they manage 800 acres and raise crops such as alfalfa, hybrid rye, corn, soybeans and a grazing mix that they use to rest their pasture in the mid to late August time frame when the pasture may need to recover before they bring their cattle back to it.
Richard, who is the majority member of the LLC, studied IT and Network security at South Dakota State University and was set to head to California for a job opportunity when he decided to return to the farm full time and work with his father in 2016.
"I had the opportunity to come back to the farm and it was the much better fit at the time," he said. "The work I was doing out here was making me happy and was making me feel fulfilled so that is the direction I decided to take."
His background in IT and network security has helped the family operation to dive deeper into the technological side of their work. The production crew interviewed Richard about more of the technology focused aspects of what they are doing including data collection and how they use that data to forward soil health and leverage that data to target specific areas.
"The data that we collect through harvest and planting help inform us but a lot of it is going out in the field with a shovel and looking at the soil itself," Richard said. "If it has the texture, color and smell that we want."
Having his father's seasoned experience to lean on has been helpful in making decisions and managing the operation, Richard said.
"It's been very helpful to have my father's experience to fall back on," he said. "If he's not overly concerned about something then maybe it just needs some time. It if doesn't concern him yet, it's probably going to be ok."
Working with his father has been a positive experience, Richard said, and he is thankful for the opportunity.
"It is enjoyable to be spending these years and time with my father," Richard said. "I know there are times he misses working with his father who passed in 1993. I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity and I'm fortunate that he wants to work with me as well."
Through their work and advocacy for soil health and natural resources, the Cunninghams have had the chance to develop strong relationships with experts in the field.
"We are very fortunate to be in Pipestone County with technicians at the Soil and Water Conservation District here that are passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. We are also fortunate to have made connections with people at the state level who also bring their own knowledge and passion to the soil health."
As for the future of the family business, Richard said he hopes to modernize their feeding facilities, and to eventually move to no till corn and expand their small grain production. Supporting his son while he takes the reigns of the business is something he is happy to do, Ian said.
"I hope to be able to support my son's farming operation the way my father helped me," he said. "I am very proud of my son's hard work and dedication to the farming operation. He has been called upon as a knowledgeable resource for other people about soil health and livestock production. He enables me to keep farming as I age. We have always felt a moral obligation to care for our animals and the land. It's always good to have some backup. Richard is also our technology guy. As labor becomes scarcer and more expensive farmers rely more on machines and technology to get the work done and at the same time work with Mother Nature."
 
Myn ffa lauren

In FFA, Stoel serves, teaches and helps others achieve

By Taryn Lessman

In seventh grade, Lauren Stoel was hesitant to join her school's FFA chapter.
Now, she's serving as the Minnesota FFA Association president.
Agriculture has always been a part of her life, she said. Growing up, she helped her dad and grandpa on the family farm and has become more involved on the farm since learning to drive a tractor when she was 5. She plans on someday taking over the family farm after pursuing a degree in agronomy from South Dakota State University, where she will start as a student next fall.
Once she reached seventh grade and was able to become a part of FFA, she was hesitant to join because she wasn't sure what FFA was. However, in eighth grade, she joined after her friends needed another member on the parliamentary procedure team, and because some of her family members had been active in FFA.
"My grandpa and dad were both in FFA, so I always figured I would be," Stoel said.
Stoel decided to stay involved with FFA after her eighth-grade year because of the opportunities in the organization for personal growth and the ability to connect with other members and agriculturists, she said.
As she became more active in FFA, Stoel participated in chapter events — like the Ag Olympics and Drive-Your-Tractor-to-School Day — attended the state convention, held a region office and competed in different career and leadership development events.
Earlier this spring, Stoel applied for a state office after a few of her friends sparked her interest in the idea.
"I wanted to serve others, help them achieve amazing things and teach people that FFA has amazing opportunities to offer every single person," she said about why she decided to run for state office.
At the Minnesota State FFA Convention in April, Stoel was elected state president.
"My ultimate favorite thing I've done in FFA is run for state office," she said. "I'm able to let others know there is a place for everyone in FFA and that there are so many amazing opportunities and experiences waiting for them."
Myn brockberg

Brockberg farm recognized as a century farm

By: Sirrina Martinez
Multimedia reporter

The farm of Bill and Jody Brockberg is one of 97 farms across the state that has been recognized as a Century Farm by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau in 2024. At a total of 160 acres, the operation is located around two miles east of Trosky, although it has a Jasper address.
In 1924, Bill's grandfather, Frank Brockberg, and his wife Louise, bought the farm. According to Brockberg's application for Century Farm recognition, the young newlywed couple produced products and crops that were typical of the day including cream, beef, pigs, chickens, eggs and ducks. Frank was a German born immigrant, and his father-in-law co-signed for a loan for the land, which at the time went for $100 an acre. During the Great Depression era, the farm should have been lost by the family, Brockberg said. However, the bank had so many farms at the time that they didn't want it. Once the economy began to turn around, Frank and Louise were able to make all of their back payments and the family moved forward. The couple lived in the typical two-story farmhouse and raised their five children for many years until Frank passed away in 1951. Ownership of the farm was transferred to Louise who lived there until she sold it to her son Melvin Brockberg and his wife Dorothy in 1975. The farm made it through the crisis of the 80's, Brockberg said, and continued to remain in the family.
Melvin and Dorothy owned the farm from 1975-2002, and raised their two children there, Bill and his sister Kathy. In 2002, Bill bought the farm from his parents, and he had his wife Jody have worked hard to keep it going ever since. The couple have one son, Corey, who is married to Laura, and a grandson named Hatcher who live in Boulder, Colo.
Unfortunately, the original house was torn down after the foundation caved in, but Brockberg was able to salvage the hardwood floors that Jody loved, and reuse them in the new home that was built in 2011.
"Jody had beautiful hardwood floors (in the original house)," he said. "I took every board out of thehardwood floor and I refinished it and put it in the new house. It was a labor of love."
Up until recently, Brockberg said, the family continued to raise dairy cows, "until two years ago there were cows milked continuously," he said. "Then I sold the dairy. Now we raise beef cattle, stock cows, goats and crops."
Some of the crops they raise include soybeans, oats, alfalfa and rye crops. The farm is also a Certified Clean Water Farm. The Brockberg farm has produced more than just your typical agricultural products. In October of 1990, Brockberg and his father had an unusual dairy cow that had a pattern on her left side that was shaped like the head of Mickey Mouse. The Holstein was not a great milk producer, Brockberg said, and the family had considered selling her. Her fate was changed when Jody reached out to the Walt Disney Corporation and suggested that they consider bringing her into their fold. Disney purchased the cow from the family and she was renamed Minnie Moo. For the remainder of her life, Minnie Moo lived at Grandma Duck's Petting Farm and at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground's Tri-Circle Ranch in Florida.
"Jody was 100% responsible for making all the connections and transactions," he said. "That's when dad and I were in partnership. She (Minnie Moo) wasn't the best dairy cow and we were going to sell it. Jody took it and ran with it."
Brockberg said that he and Jody are honored to have the rare opportunity to buy and keep the farm in the family and to have it recognized as a Century Farm.
"Not very often does that happen now days," he said. "I'm very honored."
Myn jccffa

FFA members busy preparing for state convention

By Taryn Lessman

As the Minnesota State FFA Convention approaches, members of the Jackson County Central FFA Chapter are competing in the last few regional contests, honing their knowledge and preparing for a busy three days at the University of Minnesota April 21-23.
Micah Worthington, a junior at JCC, is a part of the chapter's state qualifying ag mechanics team. Since the team's region contest in March, Worthington and the other members of the team have been practicing weekly to get ready. They also have had help from community members in the ag mechanics field who have come to talk with the team and help build their knowledge.
JCC senior Noah Thompson and the other members of the chapter's general livestock judging team have been virtually judging livestock in order to prepare for their competition at state.
"I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of friends and people that I know up at state convention, and just getting to talk to them again," Thompson said.
Members of the chapter's horse evaluation team are also using virtual tools to practice for their contest, said Kayleigh Nosbusch, a junior at JCC who is a part of that team. The team also got in some extra real-life practice at the Little International contest on the campus of South Dakota State University on April 5.
"I'm excited to compete at the state fairgrounds," Nosbusch said.
Rylee Benda, a JCC sophomore, is competing on the chapter's farm business management team. This team is practicing weekly by taking practice tests and answering questions that may be found on the state exam. Benda said she is looking forward to "talking and hanging out with friends," as well as meeting new people and experiencing the state convention.
JCC senior Brixton Hillmer is a part of the chapter's parliamentary procedure team. The contest consists of a parliamentary set, a test and a set of verbal questions, so the team is preparing by studying parliamentary law and practicing a set weekly to learn how to put parliamentary law into practice, he said.
"I am looking forward to meeting new people," Hillmer said of the state convention, "and seeing all the booths and getting free stuff in the arena."
Myn wiemefamily

Meet your Murray County neighbors: The Wieme family

By Sirrina Martinez

On a 10 acre farm east of Ruthton on the Murray County line, the family of Matt and Christie Wieme enjoy the peace and privacy of being surrounded by pasture and DNR land and spending time making things with their own hands.
Christie and Matt met in high school in 1998 and married in October of 2005. In total, they have been together for 26 years. When they decided to move to the farm from Balaton in 2007, a small two bedroom house sat on the property. As their family began to grow, in 2016 Matt and Christie decided to tear down the old house, put in a bigger basement and move a larger home onto the property. Over the years they've renovated the house, re-finishing the basement and turning two rooms into a large office space where Christie is able to store everything she needs to home school their four boys: Miles, 13, Ethan, 11, Isaac, 8, and Liam 4.
The family moved to the country, Matt said, to have space for their boys to live and grow.
"We wanted to get out into the country where I originally grew up," Matt said. "To start raising animals and allow the boys to run free."
The Wiemes raise a mixture of broiler chickens that they butcher and freeze in late spring, and laying hens that provide them with fresh eggs for the majority of the year. They also keep a garden every year that provides them with a variety of fresh vegetables that they can eat in season or that Christie cans for the winter. Every year they bale hay to feed their animals and sell the extra bales. Every fall, Matt said, the boys sell pumpkins that they grow at Matt's parents' farm down the road. The family enjoys the opportunity to be as self reliant as they can, Matt said.
"With what we can manage we try to be as self sufficient as possible," he said, "where we can raise our own food. We can't do that with everything but we do as much as we can."
When they moved to the farm the family started their own little zoo, raising Silky chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, cats, dogs, Norwegian dwarf goats and a Shetland pony named Charlie.
"Half the point of living out in the country is so that you can have all these kinds of animals," Matt said. "It's good for the boys. It teaches them responsibility."
As a stay at home mom, Christie has her hands full running the house, cooking healthy natural ingredient based meals for a small army, canning applesauce, salsa and spaghetti sauce every fall, home schooling the four boys and getting them to and from their numerous sports and extra curricular activities and more. The family is also very active in Tyler Alliance Church.
Moving to the country has provided respite and a space for the boys to learn and grow, Christie said, and teaching them how to do things for themselves is important to her.
"I do these things because it is a lost way," she said. "There's a reason that our grandparents did it and it's important for the boys to learn those skills so they're not lost. I think it's a better way of living health wise, and saving money. If you can do it, they are good skills and trades for families and kids to learn that are valuable and more important than other things."
Living on the farm has been an opportunity that she feels blessed by, Christie said.
"I appreciate that the boys can run free, explore and be closer to nature," she said. "We have so much beauty around us with the DNR land and with the animals. I think the boys have more chores than they would have if we lived in town and I think that is important for them to be able to learn from their environment. I love where we live. We have beautiful views and so much to appreciate. Although I love summer time out here because of the heat, the spring is my favorite because when the Canadian geese are coming back and the frogs are singing it is so magical and peaceful. We are thankful and blessed to be here."
When Matt isn't working as a field operator with Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water, he enjoys spending time with Christie, or taking his boys hunting. When he has free time, he can be found out in one of the machine sheds working on various woodworking projects. Matt started dabbling in woodworking in 2010, and officially started his business, Woodworks by Wieme, three years ago.
Over the years he has expanded his business and now makes a variety of items built to order including custom furniture, wall decor, yard games, various sized cornhole boards, sports memorabilia and more. His best selling items, Matt said, are his custom American flags, which he makes for veterans, firefighters, law enforcement officers and other first responders, as well as for those who would like an American flag that represents their passion like hunting, farming or just their family name. His other best seller, he said, is cornhole boards. Improving his skills over the years has been a pleasure, Matt said.
"It's been interesting learning new woodworking techniques and about running a business," he said. "You don't just start a business and everything goes right. You learn a lot from other people who own their own businesses and you learn a lot from people you meet at vendor shows who has been doing it a lot longer than I have. So far it has been enjoyable and fulfilling. It has allowed me to do a lot of things I would never have ventured to try. When people call me and ask me to create custom things I enjoy trying to bring their vision to life."
He started out with a the basics like a hammer and tape measure, a drill and a table saw, Matt said. Three years later, he has expanded his shop to include a vinyl cutter and a laser engraver. Now, he is considering purchasing a CNC machine.
"I just like creating stuff out of wood," he said. "I enjoy turning a slab of wood into something I can use and something that people will appreciate. I was always kind of into woodworking, my grandpa Andrew Wieme was into it way back in the day. He had a wood shop in his basement where he used to make piggy banks, wooden names and numbers, porch swings and other items. He had band saws and all kinds of things but he was more into carving. I have some fond memories of watching him work and spending time with him."
Being able to have space to pursue his passion of woodworking is a blessing, Matt said.
"I just always feel so fortunate that this has kept going," he said. "It was something that I never thought would turn into anything."
Myn garden club

Local garden club looking to grow - in more ways than on

By Justin R. Lessman

Much as area farmers have planting on their mind this time of year, so too do members of the Jackson Garden Club, though on a slightly smaller scale.
Founded so long ago nobody can quite remember when, the Jackson Garden Club has a long history of service to the community of Jackson. At present, club members tend gardens around a historical monument in Jackson and at Fort Belmont, the community’s interstate-side tourist attraction. The club for years has hosted a spring plant sale. And, as a member of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, the club takes its turn hosting the spring convention.
-The club meets the second Tuesday of every month from May through October and is currently on the lookout for new members.
"Our membership is small, but mighty," said club member Sue Schrader. "But we’d like to add some new faces to the mix."