Ethan Hartung interacts with the calves on his family’s farm near Freeport, Minn. Ethan and his siblings are all active on the dairy.
Ethan Hartung interacts with the calves on his family’s farm near Freeport, Minn. Ethan and his siblings are all active on the dairy. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE CENTRAL MINNESOTA CATHOLIC
    FREEPORT, Minn. – Faith and family are the foundation of many farms, and are often the pieces that help carry a farm into the next generation.
    The Hartung family exemplifies the building blocks of farming and is anxious to share their lifestyle with others. On Sunday, Aug. 18, the Hartungs will welcome people to their Stearns County farm for the annual Rural Life Celebration for the Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn.
    “This year’s theme is ‘Care for God’s Creation: A Legacy of Faith,’ and that’s what we’re doing here,” Amanda Hartung said. “We’re keeping the farm going for future generations by taking care of the animals and the land we have here.”
    Amanda and her husband, Randy, milk 76 cows with their four children – Trevin, 18, Abraham, 15, Ethan, 10, and Marissa, 8 – near Freeport, Minn.
    The event will begin at 10:30 a.m. with Mass officiated by Bishop Donald Kettler. During this time, special guest speaker Joe Gill, of KASM radio, will recognize 35 century farm families in a first-of-its-kind Diocese of St. Cloud Catholic Century Farm Awards sponsored by Catholic Charities.     
    Following Mass will be a picnic luncheon and opportunity for attendees to enjoy music by the Slew Foot Family Band, view farm equipment, take part in a petting zoo, and learn about dairy farming in organized tours.
    The event is scheduled to end at 3 p.m.
    “We’re excited and nervous,” Randy said. “Initially, we thought this was going to be no big deal, but as we get closer, we’re realizing how big of event this will be.”
    With this year being the first time century farm families will be honored, the Hartungs and the planning committee are expecting a larger than normal crowd. And, all the more if the weather cooperates.
    When the committee first gathered to begin planning, they anticipated about 500 people in attendance. Now, that number has doubled.
    “Many times we will host 30 people for dinner. That’s right up our alley,” Randy said. “We really like hosting, but we’ve never done so on this scale.”
    Amanda agreed.
    “But, many hands make light work, and we’re having fun,” she said.
    They first hosted a larger crowd when the family took part in a First District Association summer picnic.
    “That was the first big group we welcomed, and that was very rewarding,” Amanda said. “We worked hard all day to set it up and it went perfectly.”
    The Hartung family and fellow church members in the parish cluster – of Seven Dolors, St. Anthony, St. Benedict and St. Martin – have been planning for the community event since early spring.
    Together, the committee has organized the various activities that will occur throughout the day, the food that will be served, and the parking and transportation of attendees, including those who are handicapped.
    “All of this has come together because we’re a team,” Amanda said.
    Randy agreed.
    “Honestly, we have a hard time saying no when it comes to helping out and going the extra mile for our church,” he said. “But we’re not stressing about the work, because we’re not doing this alone. As soon as we committed to being the host farm, so many people came up to us and offered to help with anything we needed.”
    The Hartungs already had their property ready for guests with a June graduation party for Trevin. However, the late planting and now later harvest is the greatest challenge in getting ready for the Rural Life Celebration.
    In the next two weeks, the family will juggle cutting third crop hay, swatting oats and setting up the tent for the celebration.
    Rather than focusing on the overwhelming list of to-dos, the Hartungs are focused on the incredible opportunity they have been presented.
    “To have Bishop Kettler give Mass on our farm is amazing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance … an honor,” Randy said. “My cousin told me in her mother’s eyes, this is a bigger thing than the state fair.”
    Randy grew up helping his grandfather on the farm. He lived on a hobby farm near Holdingford, Minn. Then, in 1998, he and his father purchased the property and formed a partnership. In 1999, Randy and Amanda wed, and have continued growing the dairy enterprise ever since.
    Today, the Hartungs all work together to complete daily chores, including feeding, taking care of calves and milking the cows. The family also farms 600 acres and manages a custom bale wrapping business.
    “Some days can be pretty crazy,” Randy said.
    It is a lifestyle the Hartungs would not trade, and one they want to share with a larger community.
    “It’s so rewarding to give back, and I believe in whatever you do it comes back 10-fold,” Randy said. “I want people to feel welcomed and leave with that same feeling.”