Farm Girl Turns Dr. Doolittle

Farm girl Taylor Boell is not only following in her parents’ footsteps on the farm, she is also pursuing her own dreams.
Boell grew up on the family farm near Petersburg, she and her brother the fifth generation. She graduated from Jackson County Central High School, where she was active in FFA. She also has a long history in 4-H.
Her family members were grain farmers, and they used to raise cattle and hogs. Boell said she didn’t have one specific job on the farm, but rather filled in wherever needed, which allowed her to always try new things, such as feeding the animals or running the tractor.
She has always had a passion for animals, and found her favorite things to do on the farm were any of the things having to do with the animals, specifically her horses and dogs. She was blessed to be able to have an assortment of animals throughout the years. In 4-H, she had calves, rabbits and sheep. As pets, she had horses, a donkey, goats, pigs, cats, a chinchilla and dogs. For a short time, she even had a llama.
In light of her love for animals, Boell decided to pursue an education as a certified veterinary technician through Ridgewater College. She works in Jackson at the River Valley Veterinary Clinic and she is learning as much as she possibly can through school and through experience.
While many veterinary offices limit their work to small animals and pets, River Valley vets still make farm calls and work with many large farm animals. Boell has found she loves the medicine administered to, and surgery performed on, the larger animals. She has developed a strong respect for the veterinarians with whom she works at River Valley, and enjoys going on farm calls to help animals who are not able to be brought into the office.
“I am always learning something new,” Boell said.
In addition to work, school and helping out at the family farm, Boell also serves as treasurer of Petersburg Township and she enjoys spending time with her farmer neighbors and learning from their experiences.
 

Rodney Koch Works Toward Goal of Full-time Farming

Along the way, he’s learning about cover crops and being a good steward of the land conservation stewardship program...
 

Rodney Koch, 31, may have only been farming on his own for the past 10 years near Dell Rapids, S.D., but he is a fifth generation farmer. He started out with his family in the Sherman area.
“My dad owns the original family farm,” Koch said. “I’m the fifth one to farm on the land there. I don’t per -say farm it now, but to be on the land.”
It wasn’t an easy thing to do to hang onto the land through all those generations. Rodney’s parents, Paul and Karen, lost the farm in the 1980s during the farm crisis, but were able to get it back into the family’s name about 10 years ago.
“It’s not a career choice for everybody,” Koch said. “But to me it’s more of a lifestyle or life choice – more than just a job.”
Koch went  to Lake Area Tech in Watertown, S.D. for ag production and ag business. Once he graduated, he bought his home with terms to rent his land. He does not own any livestock, so in addition, he runs his own construction company. Through his company he builds new houses, sheds and does remodels. He is able to farm and maintain his construction business with the help of two full-time workers and three summertime workers.
“But my dream is to farm full-time someday,” he said. “It just takes time. I had about 600 acres when I started.”
Koch is enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which requires him to plant so many acres of cover crops each year. He decided to join CSP to make the land that he farms better and more fertile.
“I’m trying to be the best steward of the land I can be,” he said.
Although he is just starting out with the cover crops, he’s had success so far. Last year, his first planting of cover crops, he planted a mix of radishes, turnips, crimson, clover, rapeseed and spring wheat.
“It turned out better than I could have imagined,” Koch said. “It really took.”
After killing off some of the mixture that didn’t die off this spring, Koch no-tilled soybeans directly into the fields.
“So far I’ve got a phenomenal stand,” he said. “Time will tell, this fall when we combine, but it sure worked well planting into it. And now it’s a really nice stand of beans.”
Koch plans to do the same with cover crops this fall, only he will try a different blend to see if he can take it off for forage for neighboring dairy heifers. That enables him to gain manure, to cut down on fertilizer cost and increase his soil’s fertility.
Koch explained that it can be challenging to tell farming stories, without receiving backlash on what you do and why you do it.
“Most people frankly don’t understand what we do, they just don’t,” he said.
Koch expressed that sales tactics and pushing organic and debating the usage of GMOs have made farming a pretty heated topic.
“I have two young girls, I don’t want to harm them either,” he said. “I try to do everything we possibly can to make sure it’s safe.”
Koch’s daughters, Ella, 8, and Addison, 6, help him out on the farm when they can.
“They like to be in the tractor and know what’s going on,” he said. “They go out and check fields and they know how to dig for corn and check the beans. They’re quick to point out if there are any weeds in the fields.
Koch enjoys farming, learning from his parents, neighbors, and previous farmers he’s worked with about the past. He continues to try new things and work at growing his farm in hopes that one day he will be able to farm full-time.
 

Local High School Grad Climbs Ladder at MDA

Local High School Grad Climbs Ladder at MDA

Whitney Place says sometimes it’s what you know and who you know.
Place, a 2006 graduate of Southwest Star Concept High School in Okabena, currently serves as director of government affairs at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. She was named to the post in February 2016.
The government affairs office provides a link between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the state Legislature, working with the governor’s office, legislators and department staff to shape and monitor agricultural policy. Place’s government affairs office and the commissioner of agriculture work to implement policy working groups created by the Legislature, providing legislative recommendations on a wide variety of agricultural issues.
Place said it was a combination of her education and experience, plus her familiarity with those who matter, that landed her the high-profile job.
She began studying agriculture at SSC High School in Okabena and was involved in the school’s FFA chapter. She earned a bachelor’s degree in applied plant science, agronomy and agroecology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 and a master’s degree in science, technology and environmental policy-agricultural and environmental policy from the U of M-Humphrey School of Public Affairs in 2013. As an undergrad, Place worked as an oat breeding lab assistant at the university, a government relations intern for the National Farmers Union, a policy intern for Gov. Mark Dayton and a student intern at the MDA.
She began working as executive assistant to Dave Frederickson, commissioner of ag, and as the communications and outreach coordinator for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program in the pesticide and fertilizer management division. In that position, Place said, she had “full access to the commissioner’s issues, schedules and contacts.”
“When the legislative director position opened up, the commissioner was familiar with me, so recommended me for the job,” she said.
In her current position — basically as a liaison between the MDA and the Legislature — Place is tasked with “communicating technical issues in an understandable form.” Among the most common issues she distills for decision makers are environmental challenges and water quality, security and safety of food systems and precision ag technology.
“I’ve got to know what’s going on,” she said.
 

Kallemeyn is This Year's Dairy Princess

Kallemeyn is This Year's Dairy Princess

April Kallemeyn will be the public face of the dairy industry in Pipestone County this year.
She was crowned the 2017 Pipestone County Dairy Princess April 10 during the annual Pipestone County Dairy Association annual banquet at the Pizza Ranch in Pipestone, where she works. Kallemeyn was the only person to express interest in becoming the Pipestone County Dairy Princess this year. She said she was interested in the title because of her family’s involvement in the dairy business and the activities that come along with being the Dairy Princess.
“It looked like a fun experience getting to go in parades, hand out ice cream and support your local dairy farmers,” she said.
Kallemeyn is the daughter of Dave and Doreen Kallemeyn and lives northeast of Holland. The family grows alfalfa, barley, corn and soybeans on about 500 acres and milks 100 cows at their organic dairy.
The family converted their operation to organic about nine years ago. Kallemeyn said they made the switch due to the benefits of operating an organic operation, including being paid more for the milk, not having to spend money on sprays or chemicals and having healthier cows. As part of the organic process, the family’s cows must spend most of their time in the pasture rather than being confined.
Kallemeyn has been involved in the local FFA and 4-H organizations over the years, participating in dairy and dairy food judging with FFA and consumer judging with 4-H, including a few years ago when the team took second at the national competition in Denver. She helps her parents and two older brothers –– Wade and Troy ––  on the family farm by feeding the cows and caring for calves. She also has an older sister, Sarah, who lives in Oklahoma and works as a nurse.
Kallemeyn graduated from Pipestone Area Schools on May 28 and is planning to study medical coding at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls.
County dairy princesses are eligible to apply to become Princess Kay of the Milky Way and represent the dairy industry statewide. Kallemeyn said she chose not to pursue the title of Princess Kay because she had enough going on with graduating from high school.
Community members can meet Kallemeyn June 7 when she’ll be handing out Dilly Bars at First Bank and Trust in Pipestone. She’ll also appear in this year’s Watertower Festival in Pipestone and Dutch Festival in Edgerton and serve ice cream during the Pipestone County Fair in August.
In addition to crowning Kallemeyn Dairy Princess this year, the Pipestone County Dairy Association named Nakia Evans and Lauryn Smidt Pipestone County Dairy Ambassadors. Mike Hulstein, president of the Pipestone County Dairy Association, said it’s the first time the organization has had Dairy Ambassadors. The title is used for girls who are interested in promoting the dairy industry, but not old enough to be Dairy Princess.
 

Rasmussen Working to Bring Internet to Everyone's Back 40

Rasmussen Working to Bring Internet to Everyone's Back 40

Troy Rasmussen had a problem.
He needed secure, reliable Internet service with high bandwidth speeds. The biggest challenge he faced when finding a solution was his location.
Rasmussen and his family live in rural Jackson County, and for his personal and professional needs, Internet services available to him weren’t enough.
He created a solution to his problem by starting what is now known as Back 40 Wireless. The initial rollout of the rural Internet service started small.
“We started with a handful, about 10 neighbors to test it out,” Rasmussen said.
Three years later, Back 40 Wireless has grown into a regional rural Internet service provider. Rasmussen is self-taught and has been engineering and managing networks for more than 10 years.
Rasmussen said Back 40 Wireless distinguishes itself from other providers by providing high-quality customer service, no contracts and no data caps. His startup strives to provide Internet speeds up to 5 megabits per seconds download / 2 Mbps upload. Rasmussen said Back 40 Wireless has the speeds and capacity to meet the needs of rural folks, whether they are in need of Internet access to get their daily farm endeavors done or use the service for things like in-home streaming services.
The service is connected across equipment mounted on existing structures, such as grain legs on storage bins, towers and even water towers across the countryside. In April, Back 40 Wireless erected its own 180-foot tower located near Estherville, Iowa.
Clients of Back 40 Wireless need not expect a lot of special equipment. Rasmussen said clients are provided a radio mounted to their home and all the homeowner needs to do is provide a wireless router. Rasmussen said installation takes about an hour, and he has a crew of subcontractors working daily to get people connected.
In addition to providing high-quality service and fast speeds, Rasmussen said Back 40 Wireless prides itself on delivering what customers pay for and all from a local, family-operated business.
“I’m out to prove we can do it better locally,” he said.
Rasmussen said being a local business operator creates a greater level of accountability. He also hopes his clients will feel good about writing a check for their Internet service that stays in their community and contributes to the growth of the local economy.
Back 40 Wireless currently provides Internet services to people living in Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin, Murray and Nobles counties in Minnesota and Dickinson, Emmet and Osceola counties in Iowa.