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

Production and promotion both important to this dairy family

Wright family named McLeod County Farm Family of the Year
Allison, Cody, McKenna and Breanna Wright hold miniature straw bales their family markets to garden centers in the Twin Cities. The Wrights began this business several years ago. The 9- by 10- by 22-inch bales are used for decorating and mulching, among other things.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY RUTH KLOSSNER
Allison, Cody, McKenna and Breanna Wright hold miniature straw bales their family markets to garden centers in the Twin Cities. The Wrights began this business several years ago. The 9- by 10- by 22-inch bales are used for decorating and mulching, among other things.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY RUTH KLOSSNER

By by Ruth Klossner- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

HUTCHINSON, Minn. - Paul and Heather Wright strive not only to produce quality products on their McLeod County farm, but to promote them as well.
"We spend a lot of time with all kinds of ag promotions. We put many hours into it, going into the classroom and bringing groups here," Paul said of his rural Hutchinson, Minn. farm. "There's such a disconnect between the consumer and the farm. There's so much work to be done."
The 2011 McLeod County Farm Family of the Year also goes into elementary classrooms in Hutchinson, planting corn and soybeans with the kids so they can watch the plants grow. They show farm products-and relate how they are made into food products that the kids eat. They've developed their own coloring book for kids.
The Wright farm is also the scene of numerous tours for pre-school through third grade students.
"Parents and grandparents come, too, to see what's going on. We try to get them over their misconceptions about agriculture. That's something the ag industry needs to take seriously. Many people are three or four generations removed-they don't have uncles or grandparents on the farm anymore," Paul said.
In addition to the tours they conduct, the Wrights open their farm for the Hutchinson FFA's farm safety day. Their son, Cody, is a member of that group.
"They pretty much lock down the farm that day," Paul said with a smile.
In addition to their on- and off-farm promotion activities, Paul is also a voice for agriculture through his role as a McLeod County Commissioner. It's a position he sought for two reasons-to keep an ag voice on the board and to bring the voice of a middle-aged family to the county board.
Wright is nearing the end of his first term on the board, a term that he called "a big education." His Third District encompasses four townships, one-third of the City of Hutchinson, and the City of Stewart.
Of his time on the board, Paul said simply, "It's going pretty good. It requires a fair amount of time, but I like it."
It's time Paul is willing and able to give up, thanks to help from his family.
Cody is now 15. The Wrights' three daughters - Breanna, Allison, and McKenna - are 12, nine and seven, respectively.
"One or two of the kids are always in the barn," Paul said. "Heather works at Ridgewater College and helps with the milking, feeding, tractor driving, and combining as needed. My mom, Shirley, helps with things in the barn. My dad, Gerald, comes over to help with field work."
The Wrights' farm has been in the family for three generations and is the home place for Shirley's side of the family, the Olsons. Paul has been farming since he earned a degree in animal science from North Dakota State University in Fargo.
"I had internships with Land O'Lakes and Zeneca Farm Chemicals during college, but it seemed like farming was the right place to be," Paul said.
The Wrights milk 55 registered and grade Holsteins in a tiestall barn. They have roughly 100 head of young stock, feeder steers, and dry cows. They do embryo transplant work on their better cows and currently have a 24,000 pound rolling herd average.
With the barn full to capacity, Paul sold a few extra heifers recently and had the high selling heifer at Albany's last sale. An addition to the barn, allowing Paul to add TMR capability, was put on the barn last year.
"We should have done it years ago," Paul said as he analyzed that decision.
The Wrights own and rent about 500 acres, growing corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and peas for Seneca. Some years they also grow sweet corn.
"We use auto steer in the tractor and a yield monitor. We try to use modern technology - we learn from it," Paul said.
The Wrights found another way to use farm products when they started a miniature straw baling business a number of years ago.
"I don't even remember how we got started," Paul said. "The baler was made in Pennsylvania by, I believe, a Mennonite colony. They take old balers, strip them apart, and rebuild them to make small bales."
The bales are about a third the size of regular bales, measuring 22 inches long, nine inches tall, and 10 inches wide.
"They sail out of the baler pretty fast. The knotters are really humming," Paul said. "It's a mechanical nightmare to keep the baler running. It's hard to buy parts for it, so you have to figure out how to fix it."
The Wrights wrap the wheat or barley straw bales in plastic so they don't make a mess as they're handled, then sell them to yard and garden stores like Bachmanns, Gertens, and others. The bales are used for decorating, mulching flower beds, etc.
"They seem to go over really well. It's a bit of a side thing. They're unique."
The family is busy off the farm in other ways, with 4-H being a top priority. The kids showed a full string of cattle - 17 head - at last year's McLeod County Fair. They're also involved in dairy bowl and dairy judging. Cody raises turkeys and all the kids are involved in a host of other projects. One of their favorites is Shooting Sports where they do archery, shotgun, and air rifle. Both Cody and Allison took first place awards at a recent state meet.
Cody is also in the Civil Air Patrol and the girls are basketball players. Heather - a farm girl from Norcross, Minn. - played high school and college basketball and helps out with the girls' basketball teams. In addition, she's Sunday School superintendent at Vineyard Methodist Church in Hutchinson.
While Paul admits that farming requires a lot of work, it's a way of life that has been good to the family. For more on their farm, go to[[In-content Ad]]


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