Involvement reaps rewards

Sellners named Brown County Farm Family of the Year

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SLEEPY EYE, Minn. — Loran and Heidi Sellner, who are active with many community programs, were recognized for their work by being named the 2023 Brown County Farm Family of the Year.

Each year, the University of Minnesota Farm Family Recognition Program honors families from across the state for contributions to their communities and the agriculture industry. The families are recognized each August during Farmfest.

“There are many deserving families in Brown County,” Heidi said.

The couple is and has been involved in organizations ranging from the American Dairy Association, 4-H, FFA, sports, coaching and Minnesota Dairy Initiative all while managing their dairy farm near Sleepy Eye.

They have help from two employees to raise more than 240 acres of corn, soybeans and hay.

One of the main organizations Heidi is involved with is MDI.

“I love it,” Heidi said. “I’ve been a coordinator for 20 years now, and I get to work directly with farm families and help them find a plan to achieve their goals.”

Heidi looks at records, brings in the farm’s key people to discuss the future and finds grants as well as off-farm experts to help move the farm forward.

 She meets with the farmers as often as they like, from monthly to biannually. Each meeting averages 1-2 hours. Covering southwest Minnesota, Heidi’s travel ranges from 10 minutes to two hours.

Loran is equally involved.

Recently, he was elected to the Springfield Co-op Creamery board. When their children, Adam, Maggie and Gracie, were younger, he was a baseball coach.

Together, the couple served on the ADA board. Heidi also served on the state dairy princess board and was active in 4-H with their children.

 Their grown children return to the farm when needed and able. Their youngest, Gracie, is in her first year of college at South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural education and minoring in agricultural business.

“I helped on every committee with 4-H except the food stand,” Heidi said. “Our kids were involved in 4-H, FFA, sports, (including) summer sports at St. Mary’s (Catholic) School in Sleepy Eye.”

While being active in the community, the family never aimed to be in the spotlight. When they were first named as a farm family, they said it was adjustment to be front and center.

“It was a change, but everything on the farm changes,” Loran said. “You have to adapt to it. It was a little more running around than we were used to but was a nice honor. There are other families that are just as deserving.”

 The Sellners milk 200 Holsteins with three robotic milking units and ship milk to First District Association. Heifers are raised off the farm.

“I could never remember numbers, so all my cows got names,” Loran said. “Since we got the robots, everything is calm and gentle.”

Loran took the farm over from his parents in the 1980s. He uses A.I. and genomic testing and tests for production and pregnancy through the Dairy Herd Improvement Association.

“(Genomic testing) is a nice tool to have,” Heidi said. “It can improve your herd quickly, and everything is right on your phone and computer.”

Loran is the fifth generation on the farm. It was his mother’s family’s homestead, established in 1858.

“Adam is interested in coming back, but he is more interested in the crops and maybe diversifying the farm,” Heidi said.

They are hoping to make a slow generation change and pass more responsibility to Adam.

“You can’t take giant leaps,” Loran said. “It’s a generational farm. My life is here on the farm, and I like working with the cattle. There’s always something to do, and we are at the size we feel comfortable with.”

The family values the time they spent raising their family on the farm.

“You get all of life’s challenges you have to deal with; it teaches a kid everything,” Loran said.

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