Reece and Hope Klaphake feed heifer calves grain and hay May 6 on the family’s organic dairy farm near Melrose, Minn. Hope prides herself in teaching her children responsibility and work ethic as they help care for the farm animals.
PHOTO BY JENNIFER COYNE
Reece and Hope Klaphake feed heifer calves grain and hay May 6 on the family’s organic dairy farm near Melrose, Minn. Hope prides herself in teaching her children responsibility and work ethic as they help care for the farm animals. PHOTO BY JENNIFER COYNE

    MELROSE, Minn. – Hope Klaphake’s days begin at 5:15 a.m. as she and her husband, Nick, head out to the milking barn with coffee mugs in hand. Klaphake’s days end once the sun has set and her children are tucked in bed.
    As a mother of three and co-owner of a dairy farm, Klaphake’s days are overflowing, yet she cannot imagine her life any other way.
    “Between doing stuff on the farm and in the house, and finding a balance between taking care of the cows and the children, I love it,” Klaphake said. “I love being here every day.”


    Klaphake and her husband milk 77 cows with their three children – Reece, 9, Peyton, 7, and Mason, 4 – on their organic dairy farm near Melrose, Minn.
    For the past 12 years, Klaphake has taken pride in milking the herd morning and evening, and also overseeing the care of the family’s youngstock. Previously, Klaphake worked in a nursing home.
    “Nick had 25 cows at the time and I would chat with him while he milked,” Klaphake said. “One day, I asked if I could milk, and now I’m out here every day, all day.”
    While Klaphake and her husband begin milking together, Klaphake retreats to the house around 7 a.m. to help get the children ready for the day. After they are picked up by the school bus, Klaphake helps finish chores before she and her husband return to the house for breakfast together.
    “In the morning, we talk about what needs to all get done for the day,” Klaphake said.
    By 4:30 p.m., the children return home and the family starts evening chores.


    When Klaphake finishes milking, she gets dinner started, and soon after the family winds down for the night.
    “Farm life is repetitive, but it’s my life,” Klaphake said. “When I can sit down on the couch at the end of the day, I feel good. We accomplished all we wanted to get done that day. And, if we didn’t, tomorrow is another day.”
    As Klaphake’s children have grown, she has taught them responsibility on the farm. Both the older girls feed calves in the evenings during the school year, and also in the mornings during the summer.
    They also help their mother bed the animals with clean, dry straw.
    “The best part of my job is watching our kids mature and being able to teach them the meaning of work,” Klaphake said.
    Providing the children with responsibilities has also taught them good morals and to help one another.
    Klaphake is often in the milking barn when her daughters feed the calves milk.
    “Reece has taught Peyton what to do and they help each other out. As they’ve gotten older, things have gone smoother, and I know the calves are taken care of,” Klaphake said. “Sometimes I’ll hear them bicker, but they know they have to figure it out on their own.”
    Likewise, Klaphake enjoys watching her son begin to understand farming by watching herself and her husband.
    “Mason is always asking a million questions and that’s really neat,” Klaphake said.
    Klaphake will also help with fieldwork, and mostly enjoys raking and baling hay.
    However, her favorite responsibility on the farm is tending to the calves and heifers, and then watching her daughters pick up on certain characteristics of what makes an animal not feel well and need extra attention.     
    “To watch a calf grow and become a cow … as a mother, that’s fulfilling,” Klaphake said.
    When Klaphake devoted her life to the farm, she dove in headfirst. She and her husband married a couple years later and then started a family shortly thereafter. Klaphake’s ability to both be involved on the farm and raise children is in part due to the support system the family is surrounded by.
    Klaphake’s parents, Bruce Trotten and Jonel Walz, and her in-laws, Neal and Karen Klaphake, have always been available to watch the children or offer advice and guidance.
    “We’re pretty lucky with family,” Klaphake said. “My parents were saviors when they would come and watch the kids when they were younger so I could be outside on the farm.”
    On Sundays the family tries to get away for a short cabin stay at Klaphake’s in-laws.
    Both farming and parenthood are hectic careers, and Klaphake strives for easy communication between her and her spouse to keep their working relationship and marriage strong.
    “Balancing house chores, the barn and cows can be stressful; it’s a lot of work,” Klaphake said. “We talk to each other a lot and make time for date nights off the farm.”
    Whether its chore time and the children are helping or they are watching hay being made, Klaphake values every day she is able to spend being both a mother and a dairy farmer.
    “I never imagined 15 years ago that I’d be here today, but it’s become second nature to me,” Klaphake said. “With all of life’s ups and downs, I thank God I’m here.”