September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"Everyone is involved in [the dairy] in one form or another. Everyone has a job," said Steve Saumer, who owns and operates Saumer Dairy with his wife, Laura, and their children, Mike (21) and Hannah (19).
In August, the Saumer family was recognized as the Pine County Farm Family of the Year during a ceremony held at FarmFest near Redwood Falls, Minn. It's an honor the Saumers humbly appreciate.
"We were happy to be recognized but at the same time there are so many people that deserve this," Steve said. "We don't do things to get recognized. We do them because we are producing a good product that people need every day."
The Saumers milk around 45 Holsteins on their dairy twice a day in a tiestall barn. The farm has been in the family since 1961, when Steve's parents, Andy and Ella Saumer, purchased it. Steve was raised on the farm with two brothers and three sisters. He and Laura took over in 1989.
"I just enjoy milking cows and farming," Steve said. "The ups and downs are sometimes frustrating but I still enjoy it."
He and Laura also knew it would one day be a good place to raise their own family. When the time came, they got the kids involved right away.
"We started out by setting them up in the middle aisle in a playpen while we milked cows," Steve said.
As Mike and Hannah grew, they began to take a more active role in the everyday happenings on the farm.
"We worked our way into it," Hannah said of their specific chores.
Today, Steve and Mike handle the majority of the milking. Mike spent two years off the farm attending college before deciding to come back full time to work with his family. He also works off the farm for Central Livestock. While Hannah is in her second year at Anoka Ramsey Community College studying criminal justice, she continues to live at home, doing much of the feeding and calf chores. Laura has worked off the farm for the postal system for the last 13 years.
"We enjoy working together. This is truly a family farm," Steve said.
The chore schedule itself - 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. - is based around family.
"I'm up at 4 a.m.; it's something I started when the kids started school and the bus was here at 6:45 a.m. I wanted to be in the house by the time the kids left," Steve said.
The family stays close by working together every day, but the Saumers also enjoy each others' company in play. For the last seven years, that has included airplane rides around the farm and the surrounding area in Steve's two-person plane. Both Steve and Mike have their pilot's licenses. It's something Steve has always wanted to do, but it took a car accident - a wake-up call - to prompt him into it.
"I've always wanted to learn about airplanes," Steve said. "I had a couple of uncles who used to fly, and I wanted to try something different."
Preferring to go with a passenger, Steve has taken his family members often for weekly jaunts in the plane. He has also taken several of his neighbors out and has used the vehicle for running errands, such as getting parts.
"It's just an expensive hobby," he said, smiling.
Off-the-farm vacations have also become regular events for the Saumers. Many of their family outings involve fishing trips to Canada and attending threshing shows, where Steve exhibits his restored ag equipment, including grain drills, gas engines and corn shellers.
"It is something I grew up with," Steve said of taking time off the farm. "My parents took time off; it's the way I was brought up - to enjoy life. Work hard, play hard and live within our means."
When they can't get away, community activities keep the Saumers busy. Steve, Mike and Hannah belong to the local conservation club. Mike and Steve also belong to the Knights of Columbus and donate blood together every six weeks during blood drives hosted by the local 4-H club. Steve is up to donating around three gallons. Attending auctions and helping neighbors are other favorite pastimes.
"I like being friendly, and it's nice to have good neighbors," Steve said.
Strong family ties have remained steadfast for the Saumers. Steve's father lives just half a mile away, visiting the farm often to see how things are going. The majority of his siblings live within 20 miles from each other, and Laura's parents live nearby in Pine City.
"Our families are really close," Steve said. "We all get together to visit and play cards."
Steve and Laura hope to continue those family bonds as they bring the next generation into the operation. Mike currently receives a percentage of the milk check and has purchased a tractor and heifers. Although Hannah doesn't know if she will come back to the farm full time, she enjoys the way of life dairy farming offers.
"I enjoy the life and knowing where food comes from," she said.
"I'm proud of them," Steve said of Hannah and Mike. "We (Laura and I) were lucky to have parents who worked with us. I hope to do that with our kids."
For this Farm Family of the Year, family is the past, present and future success of their dairy.[[In-content Ad]]
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