Hello, readers of Dairy Star. When I was asked if I would be interested in writing an article, after taking up three times the amount of Mark Klaphake’s day he expected when he called me to get details for a Minnesota DHIA ad, I was surprised. Clearly he had not spoken to the professor who taught my rhetoric and technical communications class at the University of Minnesota; the only class I remember doing much writing in where run-on sentences consisting mostly of dairy industry jargon were not accepted. If he had, he may have been warned that my grasp of farming-related acronyms is great, but my skills with a pen are lacking.
    That said, I will do my best to make this column as entertaining as it is poorly written because I imagine just like cows, dairy farmers who write have to be at least slightly more useful than annoying to stick around.
    In today’s world, the first thing a lot of people do is jump on the internet when they want to find out who someone is and how many friends they have in common. I will save you the trouble and possibly me the embarrassment of long forgotten college era photos.
    My wife, Emily, and I farm along with my parents, Jon and Lisa Zweber, and our three children, Erik, Jonnie and Hannah, just north of New Market, Minnesota. Our town is only 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities and, as such, has turned into a suburb in the last couple decades. My three siblings have left the farm to pursue other careers but come back regularly to hang about and enjoy farm life for a bit, especially around the holidays.
    Our whole family loves the outdoors, and when we are not busy with field work or other seasonal jobs that take more hours than there are in a day, we take advantage of all the outdoor recreation Minnesota offers. Rock climbing and boating in the summer, hunting and hiking in the fall, skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Spring is mostly devoted to mud, all the kinds of mud, and, of course, getting ready for the cropping and grazing season when that mud suddenly dries up and it is time to plant and get the cows out to pasture.
    Our farm has gone through many changes in its 117 years being run by our family. Starting out as a diversified farm with horses for field work, dairy cows, pigs and chickens, it slowly became specialized to dairy cows only. My parents further specialized into managed intensive grazing and the first steps toward being organic in the 1990s.
    When I returned to the farm from a stint as an auto mechanic then at the University of Minnesota studying dairy science, we certified the farm organic and joined Organic Valley Cooperative. Around the time they started grazing the cows, my parents also started to raise our bull calves for ourselves and family and then for friends and neighbors; thus our freezer meat business was born.
    Soon we added pasture-raised chickens back to the farm because beef is great but you have to eat more than just steaks and burgers. We butchered them ourselves one time and decided that in order to have friends and family answer their phones when called we best leave that job to the professionals at the butcher shop.
    When a neighbor somehow acquired a pig which they fed in their backyard for a short time before walking it up to our farm on a leash for us to raise, we became pig farmers again. Eventually we even built a chicken coop and got some layers to satisfy all the folks stopping out to pick up their meat or place an order, thinking if we had meat chickens we must have egg layers.
    It’s fun to look back at aerial pictures of our farm lined up by decade in the entryway of our house and see all the old buildings for the different species disappear then one by one reappear though in a modern form.
    Speaking of transitions, next week will be Emily and I’s 15th wedding anniversary, and I have nearly learned through her gentle reminders when I keep us too long at a friend’s house Minnesota “goodbyeing.” Sometimes I need to stop talking and let people get on with their business. Until next time friends, keep on living the dream.