Dairy operators named Farm Family of the Year
Glen Johnson admits he was a “little surprised” when he found out his farm operation has been named the Farm Family of the Year for Steele County.
Johnson and his wife, Deb McDermott-Johnson, own Clover Glen Farms located in the far eastern part of the county. Johnson said he’s surprised because it’s just the two of them operating the farm with no children.
“I never thought we would qualify,” Johnson said. “I guess two people make a family,” he added.
Johnson also didn’t think they would be picked because the honor usually goes to a family that has been born and raised in Steele County. The Johnsons moved to the area in 1993 from northern Minnesota when they took over an existing dairy operation. “If you’re here long enough, I guess they forget about that,” he said.
Clover Glen Farm has a capacity of 90 milking cows. They have Holsteins, Brown Swiss and “one lone Guernsey left.” They also farm 220 acres of corn and alfalfa.
They split the farm duties and both manage daily operations. He takes care of nutrition, feeding, herd health and reproduction as well as their cropping systems. She takes care of the young stock and keeps the farm’s records.
While they may not have children of their own, the Johnsons have certainly adopted many over the years through Cow Camp, which they started 12 years ago. The camp allows about 16 youngsters to come to the Johnson farm from the city to learn about cows. Since the camp began, Johnson estimates about 200 kids have gone through the program. “Some we claim as ours,” he said.
Johnson is especially proud of the fact that four of the children who have taken part in cow camp in grades K-6 are now headed off to begin agriculture careers largely because of what they experienced on the Johnson farm. “They realize there is a career that they never knew about before coming to Cow Camp,” he said.
Both Glen and Deb take great pride in the Cow Camp. “We enjoy teaching young people where their food comes from,” Johnson said. “It’s a big pleasure for both of us,” he added.
The hard work of being dairy farmers can get overwhelming at times for the Johnsons, especially with Deb working full-time as the director of Owatonna Community Education. “It’s just Deb and I doing it,” he said. “Sometimes we wonder why.”
But Johnson says he wouldn’t want it any other way. He especially enjoys the independence being a farmer offers. “You’re your own boss,” he said. “If you make a wrong decision, you can’t blame anyone else.”
The Johnsons have utilized some of the Cow Camp graduates to help out with farm chores when they get older.
With Johnson working alone a large part of the time, they have made many changes “just so I can do it myself,” he said. “If we need two people, it waits until the weekend.”
Cows from the Johnson farm are taken to many fairs throughout the area, including Dodge, Olmsted and Steele. The Johnsons will be bringing 34 cows to the Steele fair next week. Most of them will be shown by 4-H members.
Prior to the fair, the Johnsons work with the 4-H families to prepare them for showing. “We train whole families,” he said. “We get the parents involved, and we’re there to answer all the questions.”
And it’s the preparations for showing that give the Johnsons a sense of fulfillment. “It’s a pleasure knowing we’ve educated kids as well as parents about agriculture,” he said.
Johnson encourages people coming out to the fair next week to stop by and see them in the cattle barns. “We’d love to answer any dairy questions,” he said. “That’s why we go to the fair for people to come by and visit.”
Clover Glen Farms will be honored during the Hall of Fame ceremony at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at the fair. They will also be recognized during a statewide ceremony this week at Farm Fest; however, the Johnsons will not be able to attend.
Families are selected as the Farm Family of the Year by their local county selection committees for demonstrating commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture and agricultural production. “These farm families are a major driver of Minnesota’s economy and the vitality of Minnesota’s rural communities,” said Bev Durgan of University of Minnesota Extension.