December 28, 2020 at 3:50 p.m.
“We didn’t have a clue we would be nominated or even considered,” Bill said. “We don’t farm for accolades, so it was a huge surprise.”
The Malones were presented the award from the University of Minnesota which was to be awarded at Farm Fest, but the gathering was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bill runs the 50-cow dairy operation at their home north of Wadena, while Deana operates the 130-cow beef ranch near Nimrod on top of her full-time job in Wadena.
“It keeps us very busy,” Deana said. “In the winter, it’s not unusual to spend three hours (at the ranch) after work.”
Meanwhile, Bill operates the dairy entirely on his own.
“She will help with vaccinations, dehorning or when we have to test cows (on the dairy),” Bill said. “But, she’s pretty busy with her own cows most of the time.”
In addition to milking cows, Bill also puts up his own forages. He shares equipment with his brother and cousin, who also have farms of similar size nearby.
“We share labor and it works pretty slick,” he said. “We go from field to field, and it just helps to have manpower when we’re chopping hay or silage.”
Post-high school, Bill traveled west but knew he would always end up back on the dairy.
“When I came home in 1983, it wasn’t the right time to take over the home farm,” he said.
There were too many younger siblings that needed to be raised, so Bill started off on his own, and a younger brother took over the home farm years later.
“I bought two groups of springers from a guy who had raised them as calves he bought from my uncle,” Bill said. “So I knew they were good animals, and I knew the herd they had came from.”
Since then, Bill has maintained a closed herd with around 50 cows.
When Bill and Deana married in 2013, they celebrated more than a union of families. It was a union of two herds.
“We really are a herd,” Deana said.
Deana has a son, Logan Skov, who lives at the ranch, and Bill has three daughters, Megan Woodard, Kristen Ahlers, and Rebecca Groft, who all help when they are needed.
“We have two grandkids on the way and four on the ground already,” Deana said.
Deana lost her late husband, Tinker Skov, in a farm accident in 2009. They had built the ranch from Tinker’s grandparents farm in 1990, and Deana was not ready to give it up abruptly.
“My son, Logan, and I are a good team,” Deana said. “It was something that would have been hard to give up. It was good for (Logan and I) to have a constant. It got us through that tough time.”
Logan was 14 years old at the time and continues to be instrumental in the beef operation today.
Similarly, Bill worked through a divorce that same year.
“I needed to work, and I needed to work hard to not think about what was going on,” he said. “There was a real worry I might not be able to continue farming.”
Bill had all the cattle sold in 2010 but backed out of the deal.
“That was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I don’t think I could do anything else. There’s no job I would give this up for. I’ve been doing this for 38 years; I’m my own boss and I can walk to work.”
When they lived at home, Bill’s daughters were involved on the farm as well.
“In high school, when they wanted to make some extra money, I told them they could work for me, and I paid them a good wage,” he said. “They liked farming too.”
All three of his daughters were county dairy princesses and showed cattle in 4-H.
“I also sent them to A.I. school,” Bill said. “I let them be involved with what they wanted to do.”
If the girls got into trouble, that was a different story. Bill would have them clean out the calf pen or do even less desirable chores.
“I’d also make sure there was always a rack of hay to unload or something when a boy came to take them out,” Bill said. “It was an easy way to find out if they were worth anything. And, a lot of them weren’t.”
Perhaps his tactics worked, because he is pleased with the son-in-laws he has today.
“They all married good men,” he said. “They come help out when we have big projects or when I need help.”
Today, Bill and Deana seem to have found their groove and are happy to share their expertise in the community.
“I had uncles and people I looked up to when I started farming,” Bill said. “So, I wanted to sort of pay that back.”
Deana is proud to stay committed to both farms as well.
“We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it,” she said. “There’s so many rewards that come along with it.”
“It’s been a good career,” he said.
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