September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
The Abel family was recognized as the 2013 Wright County Farm Family of the Year. Randy and his wife, Barbara, milk 65 cows with their son, Derek (23) on their farm in Wright County near Buffalo, Minn. Their other sons, Neil (30) and Nicholas (25), help on the farm when needed.
"We were proud to be recognized," Randy said. "It's a nice gratification for being a dairy farmer and to have the support from the community for our farm."
The Abels knew they would be receiving the award for 2013 three years ago since there were three farms nominated that the committee couldn't choose from. So, the committee drew the three nominees out of a hat, which would determine the year they would receive the award.
"It's exciting to receive this award," Barbara said. "We prayed to win this just like we would the lottery."
Dairy farming has been a tradition in the Abel family since Randy's great, great, great grandfather homesteaded on the property adjoining their current farm in 1858.
That original homestead was dairy farmed until Randy's grandfather and great uncle decided to quit milking cows in 1961, but the dairy farming tradition didn't stop there. Randy's father purchased a farm close to the homestead and continued to milk 20 cows in a tiestall barn on the farm the Abels still milk on today.
"I grew up here," Randy said.
After Randy finished school, he went to work full-time with a construction company, while also working part-time on the dairy farm with his father.
In 1980, Randy married Barbara, left his construction job and came to work full-time on the dairy farm with his father.
"Dad was getting ready to retire, and I wanted to see the farm continue," Randy said. "I liked dairy farming."
Once Randy came back to the farm, they started to squeeze a few more cows into the herd, increasing the herd size to 40 cows.
"Originally, we weren't milking enough cows to support two families," Randy said.
In 1982, Randy and Barbara purchased 35 acres of the homestead farm, and in 1985, they added onto the barn to house 65 cows.
"We've stayed at that number since then," Randy said.
As their three boys grew up and moved out, Neil married his wife, Melissa, and they have a son, Lucas (2), while Nicholas married his wife, Shelly. Both of the boys work full-time at a plumbing and heating business. Derek worked two years at a landscaping business, and has recently decided to return to the farm and work full-time with Randy.
"I've always enjoyed the dairy farm," Derek said. "I wanted to see the farm continue. It's a good lifestyle because I stay busy."
Randy and Derek work closely together every day milking their 65 cows twice a day. The cows are put out on pasture in the summer for six to eight hours a day if the weather is suitable. In the winter, they are put outside for three hours and then brought back into the barn.
When they aren't milking, Randy and Derek have a few chores set-aside specifically for them.
Derek does most of the breeding while Randy does the bookwork and anything on the computer.
"I am the controller around here," Randy said with a laugh.
Barbara works in town at Buffalo Dental Group as their business manager, but finds time to feed calves in the mornings every once in a while. She also does the payroll.
"I love being in the country," Barbara said. "Being outside, spending time with my grandchild and working with the animals is great."
Although they work at a job in town, between Neil and Nicholas, one will come to the farm two nights a week to help with chores.
"It's nice they can do that because we can get a night off," Randy said.
Since Derek is working full-time with Randy, the Abels are looking toward the future of the farm.
"We are going to probably have to grow our herd again," Randy said. "We are in the same situation we were in before with not having enough cows to support two families."
With retirement coming up in the next few years for Randy, Derek has already started thinking of changes he might want to make down the road to the farm.
"I eventually want to put up a freestall barn with a parlor," Derek said.
When the Abels are not busy working on the farm, they participate in the state's farm management program in Hutchinson, Minn.
"When Derek came back full-time, we started getting back into it," Randy said. "It has been very helpful for us."
Randy was a very active member in the agricultural community where he was a member of the local DHIA board for six years, a member of the Lake Regions Co-op board for 21 years and served as the chairman the last three years. Randy was also involved in Centrasota Lake Region LLC and Munson Lakes Nutrition.
For the Abels, it was important to be involved in these organizations.
"It allowed us to keep up with what was changing in the industry," Barbara said. "We were able to see what was out there to advance our farm for the future."
After over 30 years of working full-time on the farm Randy and Barbara are proud to continue the dairy farming tradition with Derek.
"It is so fun to see what we have accomplished through updates and changes," Barbara said. "We want to try and continue that and that is an accomplishment in itself."
"We are proud to still be dairy farming," Randy said. "It's definitely a passion for me."[[In-content Ad]]
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