September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Community service, 4-H part of everyday life

Atheys receive 2011 Big Stone County Farm Family of the Year award
Kaylee Athey, (12), stands with Rue, a goat she will be showing at the Big Stone County Fair. A few years ago, the Athey family added something new to their 4-H tradition when they began to show goats.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY JERRY NELSON
Kaylee Athey, (12), stands with Rue, a goat she will be showing at the Big Stone County Fair. A few years ago, the Athey family added something new to their 4-H tradition when they began to show goats.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY JERRY NELSON

By by Jerry Nelson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

GRACEVILLE, Minn. - Staying busy is a recurrent theme for the Athey family, who were honored as 2011 Big Stone County Farm Family of the Year last August at Farmfest.
The Farm Family Recognition Program, which is operated under the auspices of the University of Minnesota, has been around for more than two decades. The program honors farm families from throughout the state for their contributions to the agriculture industry and their local communities.
"I believe in keeping the kids busy," said Wade Athey. He and his wife, Vicki, have two children: Justin, 17, and Kaylee, 12.
There is never a lack of activity at the Athey dairy farm, which has been in their family since 1947. Besides milking 40 cows in their stanchion barn and farming 370 acres, the Atheys are involved in numerous community activities.
"I have been on our church's board of directors and have also served on the County Commission for the past ten years," said Wade. "Being a county commissioner has been a real experience. The phone will ring almost constantly whenever a controversial topic comes up."
Vicki is a stay at home mom who often finds herself running for repair parts. She is also in charge of keeping everything on an even keel at home.
"The kids have been very active in 4-H," said Vicki, who is a 4-H club leader. "4-H has given them opportunities to do things that they might not have done otherwise."
Because of his involvement in 4-H, Justin was able to attend the CWF Leadership program last year in Washington, D.C. He was chosen as a delegate to the National 4-H Dairy Conference, which gave him the opportunity to attend the 2011 World Dairy Expo. Justin has also served as a 4-H Ambassador for Big Stone County.
Wade has served as an EMT for their local volunteer fire department, and he and Vicki have been ADA chairs for the past 20 years. The Athey family partakes in active hobbies that they can enjoy together including such things as camping, hunting, fishing, and trapping. Kaylee, who is chief lawn mower at the Athey farm, is slated to take a gun safety course next week at their local sportsmen's club.
Everyone works together and pitches in wherever needed at the Athey farm. This includes picking rocks, one of their least favorite chores.
"It seems like rocks are the one crop that we can depend on," said Wade.
With the county fair just around the corner, the Athey children have been busily preparing their animals for the show ring. Justin is responsible for fitting their show animals for the ring.
"I've learned a lot by trial and error over the years, but I've also attended fitting schools in the Twin Cities and at South Dakota State University," said Justin, who graduated from high school this past spring.
Wade began showing dairy heifers and cows when he was a youngster, so the Athey family tradition of showing 4-H animals has deep roots. But they have also added some new wrinkles.
"We began to show goats a few years ago," said Wade. "We have taken dairy cattle to the state fair, but it proved to be quite a hassle. Goats are so much easier. You just put them in a dog carrier and off you go."
The Atheys have chosen to show Alpine and Nubian-Alpine crossbred goats.
"I like goats because they are so much easier to handle," said Kaylee. "I have a Holstein steer that I'm going to show and it seems like he's always trying to step on my foot!"
"Justin has an eight-year-old red and white polled Holstein cow named Dotty that he's shown since she was a calf," said Wade. "She has won top honors at the county fair ever since she first freshened."
"Dotty just loves attention," said Justin. "I took her to the state fair once and left her alone for a while and when I got back people were lined up to pet her. A local TV crew was even there to film her!"
"A guy from Canada offered to trade three show Jerseys for Dotty," said Wade. "But we don't believe in doing things that way. We think people should raise their own show animals, not simply buy them."
As the Athey family talks together, there are numerous good-natured jokes and much ribbing; it's easy to sense the deep feelings of respect and affection they have for one another. This can only make some upcoming changes seem that much more difficult.
"I have enrolled at Alexandria Technical and Community College where I'll be studying small engine and marine engine repair," said Justin. "I've always enjoyed working with mechanical things and this seemed like a natural fit."
"My parents ran a small engine and motorcycle repair shop in Ortonville for 30-some years," said Vicki. "Maybe that's where Justin got his mechanical aptitude."
"Justin currently has three lawnmowers torn apart that he's trying to make into one mower," said Wade with a smile. "He's hoping to have it running in time for the county fair so he can participate in the lawnmower demolition derby, which is a new event they are adding this year."
The Atheys had never expected to be named 2011 Big Stone County Farm Family of the Year.
"We were very surprised and extremely honored," said Wade. "I'm certain there are a lot of hard-working farm families out there who are just as deserving."[[In-content Ad]]


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