Van Ruler brothers share a love of antique tractors

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Visitors to the rural Lake Wilson farm of brothers Henry and Marion Van Ruler can’t miss the brothers’ shared passion. The property is filled with old tractors, many of them stored in sheds while others are parked around the farm site.
Marion said they have amassed a collection of more than 300 tractors during 35 years of collecting. Over half of the tractors are International Harvester, but their collection also includes John Deere, Case, Oliver, Ford and Cockshutt. The oldest is a 1920 Titan.
The brothers — Henry, 78, and Marion, 72, — started collecting tractors after they restored an old John Deere that was in their grove.
“It’s the one I learned to cultivate with,” Marion said.
They purchase most of their tractors at auctions in Minnesota and South Dakota. The tractors come to the auctions from all over the country. When they’re at the auctions the brothers tend to gravitate toward International Harvester, Wheatland tractors and any type of tractor they don’t have.
The Van Rulers acquire the tractors in various states of repair and do any needed repair or restoration work themselves. Marion does most of the work while Henry helps.
“I learned my mechanic skills by doing,” Marion said.
A heated shed filled with tools and parts serves as a shop where the brothers restore their tractors and do repair work for other faRmers. Its walls are lined top to bottom with toy and model tractors that far outnumber their real tractors.
Nearly all of their tractors are in working order. They don’t take them out to shows or fairs as much as they used to, but the Van Rulers still get them out during the warmer months. Last summer they took a couple of the tractors out for a drive to Chandler with some neighbors for dinner and another time they made a 50-mile trek starting in Luverne with some other tractor collectors.
The Van Rulers said their tractor collection has been featured in various publications in the area as well as on television programs in Minnesota and South Dakota. Occasionally, they sell some of their tractors, but “not very often,” Marion said.
The brothers said their love of tractors was a natural outcome of life on the farm.
“We grew up with them, with farming,” Marion said.
The brothers continue to grow corn and beans on about 200 acres. They used to milk cows too, but sold the cattle off 13 years ago.
“It was time to quit,” Marion said. “I couldn’t get up from underneath the cows anymore.”
The brothers still have cows on their farm, but they belong to a neighbor. Marion said they let the neighbor keep their cows on their farm at no charge because they like to be good neighbors. He said they are fortunate to be surrounded by good neighbors who care about one another and help each other out in times of need.
It’s an atmosphere in which the Van Ruler brothers have spent nearly all of their days. The family moved to the farm they call home when Henry was 2 and Marion was born there.
“I lived here all my life ,” Marion said. “I moved from one house to the other. I think that’s as far as I’ve moved.”

Local Farm Bureau agent on the move

Lakefield Farm Bureau Financial Services agent Kelly Anderson is on the move.
Anderson recently moved the local Farm Bureau office from 310 Third Ave. N. up the block to 213 Third Ave. N. in Lakefield.
Although not planned, Anderson needed to move from her former location and is thrilled to have found a great new space.
“I love it,” Anderson said. “It is a more visible location — people can see us much better. It is comfortable, and I like being in Lakefield.”
Anderson has been the local Farm Bureau agent for the past 10 years.
Founded more than 75 years ago to help meet the unique insurance needs of farmers, Farm Bureau Financial Services is the top agriculture insurer in the state of Minnesota, she said.
“The company isn’t the same business it was in your grandfather’s day,” Anderson said. “While we do focus on commercial and farm products, we also have a robust offering of insurance products to protect your family, including auto, home, health and life insurance. In addition to that, we can help you plan for your future, whether it’s transitioning the family farm or planning for retirement. We serve people from all backgrounds — rural, urban and everyone in between.”
Anderson prides herself on sitting down with her member-clients and getting to know them personally. In so doing, she said she can help them create a plan tailored to their needs now and into the future.
As a Farm Bureau Financial Services agent, Anderson works closely with a team of other experts to provide a full range of services.
“When you insure your farm with us, I’ll come to your farm, along with an ag underwriter, and we’ll do an onsite super check to make sure you have the right coverage in place,” she said. “And, when it comes time to transitioning your farm to the next generation, we can help with that too.”
Anderson works out of her new office location along with her mother, Merriell Frantsen, who is a service associate.

From the farm to cyber security

Growing up on a farm can provide beneficial life lessons even for those who choose a career path that doesn’t involve agriculture. Just ask Evan Bolt.
Bolt, 22, grew up on a farm near Edgerton. His family moved into town for one year, but then moved back to the country.
“I prefer the farm life,” he said.
Bolt spent his childhood working on the farm where his father grew corn and soybeans and raised pigs as a contract grower. He continues to help on the family farm, but on a more limited basis as he is now busy with college.
After he graduated from Edgerton Public School in 2014, Bolt went to college at Dakota State University (DSU) in Madison, S.D. to study cyber operations, which prepares students to provide offensive computer security. Bolt said he enjoyed working with computers and heard about DSU’s “hacking degree,” as it’s sometimes known, and “thought it sounded fun.”
“I had no prior coding experience or any idea what I was getting in to, but I never regretted it,” he said.
In the spring of 2017, Bolt graduated with a degree in cyber operations. He’s now working toward a master’s degree in computer science, with a specialty in cyber operations.
Bolt is the recipient of a CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service grant through which the National Science Foundation and Department of Homeland Security issues selected four-year colleges and universities scholarship grants to attract students to the cyber security/information assurance fields. The scholarship pays for his education and provides a stipend to live on while he completes his degree.
In addition to being a student, Bolt is an adjunct professor at DSU and teaches computer science 1.
“I’ve always liked helping students with programming,” he said.
As he prepares to move into post-college life, Bolt said he’s not forgotten the lessons he learned on the family farm.
“Probably the biggest thing I’ve retained is that the more work you put into something, the greater the reward,” he said. “I’ve had early projects where I’ve not done as much as I should have and it’s bothered me, and I’ve had projects more recently where I’ve put countless hours into them, and when I step back and see it working, it’s so much more rewarding.”
He said spending his formative years on the farm also instilled in him a “let’s get it done” attitude that has proven helpful beyond the farm.
“It’s much better to start and finish something, be it homework, a job, a project, sooner rather than put it off,” Bolt said. “It’s so much less stressful than procrastinating and I find it lets me finish work that I’m more proud of at the end.”

Longtime seed dealer happy to be recognized

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Kenny Pell of Alpha doesn’t sell seed with hopes of being recognized for it.
But he recently was anyway.
Pell, whose Jackson County seed dealership has been in the family since 1967, was recognized as a “Master Seed Representative” by Wyffels Hybrids at the company’s regional sales meeting in August.
Randy Michelson, Wyffels Hybrids district sales manager, said the recognition was well deserved.
“We are so honored he chose to be a seed representative with Wyffels Hybrids last year,” Michelson said of Pell. “I look forward to watching him show corn growers how Wyffels Hybrids can be successful on their acres.”
Pell was presented with a commemorative plaque by Michelson and members of the Wyffels Leadership Team for his accomplishments. He also earned recognition for net customer and unit growth.
Also at the annual regional sales meeting, Pell and other seed representatives received training on the latest advancements in corn genetics and technology, including Wyffels Hybrids’ new products for 2019. They also participated in discussions on how to provide high-quality service to corn growers in their communities.
Wyffels Hybrids was established in 1946 with a vision to produce seed that could help friends and neighbors be more successful. Headquartered in Geneseo, Ill., it is today one of the nation’s largest independent seed corn companies.


Edgerton student assumes title that will enable her to promote agriculture

Jaden Weinkauf, of rural Woodstock, is the Minnesota Teen Miss United States Agriculture.
The 14-year-old 9th grader at Edgerton Public School learned of the title and pageant last summer while on a 4-H trip to Pennsylvania. While there she met Kelly Gillis, who is the Pennsylvania Teen Miss United States Agriculture. Weinkauf decided to apply for the Minnesota title in July and won.
“Basically, I represent agriculture in Minnesota,” she said.
Since winning the title she’s spoken to local agriculture organizations including the Farm Bureau, volunteered to help hand out awards at the Minnesota State Fair and performed community service work during events in Edgerton. She also planned to hand out information about her title and the soybean industry at the Rock River Pumpkin Festival in Edgerton on Sept. 29 and plans to participate in area parades.
Weinkauf said she enjoys speaking to people and was interested in the title because of the opportunity it would provide her to promote agriculture.
“It’s big in this area and a big part of everyone’s lives,” she said.
Agriculture has certainly been a big part of her life. Her parents, Jerry and Shawn Weinkauf, raise about 80 cow/calf pairs, and grow soy beans, corn, alfalfa and sorghum. Weinkauf said she and her two older brothers, Justin and Jordan, all have animals in the herd and are active in the family business. Weinkauf is also a member of 4-H and FFA, through which she shows cattle and participates in the quiz bowl team, livestock team and knowledge team.
Next summer, Weinkauf plans to compete for the national title of Teen Miss United States Agriculture. The competition takes place in June in Orlando, Fla. There, she and the other contestants will speak to judges about their state and its agricultural base. The winner receives a crown, monogrammed sash, $1,000 scholarship and prize package.
Weinkauf said she’s hoping to find people to sponsor her trip to Orlando to compete in the national competition.
She also plans to apply for other age categories of the Minnesota Miss United States Agriculture title in the future. The pageant includes the categories of Baby Miss (0-23 months), Tiny Miss (2-3 years), Future Little Miss (4-5), Little Miss (6-7), Petite Miss (ages 8-10), Junior Miss (11-13), Teen Miss (14-16), Miss (17-21), Ms. (22-30 unmarried) and Mrs. (22-30 married).
In the future, Weinkauf said she’d like to have a farm of her own. She’s also considering a career in business that would allow her to utilize her speaking ability.

Biodiesel Truck Built by "Diesel Brothers" to Promote B-20 Diesel in Minnesota

Craig and biodiesel truck color
Craig Bangasser, a soybean farmer from Garvin, Minn. and former Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) director, recently appeared on two episodes of “Diesel Brothers,” a Discovery Channel reality TV show following operators and employees of the business DieselSellerz, a business that builds and sells diesel trucks.
The show is currently in its fourth season.
Bangasser was on the show because DieselSellerz built a customized truck that runs on biodiesel to promote the B-20 implementation by the state of Minnesota that mandates that No. 2 diesel fuel sold for use in combustion engines must require 20 percent biodiesel.
“Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel, manufactured domestically from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled restaurant grease,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
In Minnesota, biodiesel is largely made from soybean oil, which would increase the demand for soybeans and increase the price of soybean bushels.
This led to the MSR&PC looking for a way to promote biodiesel throughout the state of Minnesota.
“We wanted something for promotion and it needed to be road worthy and road legal,” Bangasser said.
The MSR&PC  came up with the idea during a meeting and the staff began working on their pitch to the television show with the type of vehicle they wanted built.
“From what I understand Dave Sparks, Heavy D, their business is all about diesel trucks and pickups and modifying them,” he said. “He (Dave Sparks) was thinking about making his own biodiesel to run off of cooking oil.”
After the initial idea from the organization, DieselSellerz handled the design. The project took about six months, according to Bangasser.
“Mostly it was Dave Sparks,” he said. “It was his idea, he created it. We had very little to do with it until they revealed it to us.”
The truck is a 2018 Ford 550, four-door crew cab.
The MSR&PC project was featured in two episodes of “Diesel Brothers,” the first to discuss the project and a second time to reveal the completed truck.
Some of the filming was done on a farm in Renville, while the reveal was filmed on a dairy farm in California so that the group could show the truck off at the Commodity Classic, a national farm show in Anaheim, Calif.
The MSR&PC has had the truck since late April/early May and has already put about 10,000 miles on it taking it to various events. The truck goes to county fairs, parades and events like biodiesel promotions at gas stations. They hope that the truck will help educate people on biodiesel, reach mechanics who may not be supporting biodiesel, and start conversations about the biodiesel industry.
The Minnesota Soybean truck will make its first Lyon County promotional appearance on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Southwest Minnesota State’s Ag Bowl.
“Biodiesel creates jobs right here in Minnesota, increases demand for soybean while adding 63 cents to every bushel of soybeans,” Bangasser said. “This whole campaign with the DieselSellerz was intended to promote biodiesel, so to get two episodes on prime-time is a huge bang for our buck. It’s priceless advertising for Minnesota Soybean, our farmers and the biodiesel industry.”