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Bratland Family recognized as a 2012 “U of M Farm Family” for Houston County


By Jerrold Tesmer

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2012
Posted in All Agriculture

Jerrold Tesmer

Extension Educator

Fillmore/Houston Counties

Gerald and Judy Bratland (Viking Valley Farm) of Spring Grove has been named Houston County’s “2012 Farm Family of the Year” by the University of Minnesota.

Viking Valley Farm is three generations of Bratlands owning and operating the farm, which started in 1945 by Kenneth and Gladys. Gerald became a partner in 1960, joined by Judy in 1962. Their sons Duron and Darin became partners in the ‘80s along with their wives and families.

The farm started with 200 acres of land raising corn, oats and hay, 20 dairy cows, 350 head of slaughter hogs and 500 laying hens. In 1951 a registered Brown Swiss heifer was purchased for a 4-H dairy project. In 1954 and 1956 Gerald purchased registered Hampshire and Suffolk sheep. The swine operation turned to registered Hampshire pigs in 1960 selling breeding stock. The sheep and swine operations continued for 30 years and were discontinued in the ‘80s to concentrate on registered Brown Swiss dairy cattle and crop production. In the 1970s and ‘80s, the dairy herd was shown at the State Fair and was Premier Breeder and Exhibitor for ten consecutive years. The herd was also shown at National Shows. Over 130 excellent cows have been developed. The herd has received first place National recognition for production in herds of the same size and All American recognition on seventeen dairy animals. Today 4-H and FFA cattle are shown by the fourth generation.

The current farm operation consists of 710 acres owned and 250 acres rented; 750 acres of corn, beans and hay are grown. Crops are mainly no till terrace and strip cropping rotation. Over 200 Brown Swiss are maintained with 100 milk cows. The financial and management of the farm is now done by Duron and Darin and families. Duron is in charge of the dairy operation and Darin is the agronomy manager.

Duron and wife Missy have three daughters; Kaitlin, Claire and Kelsey. Missy is a teacher in the Spring Grove Public School. Darin and Sara have three children; Lindsey, Samantha and Carter. Darin’s wife Sara is a registered nurse at St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse. Gerald is active in the daily operations. The grandchildren help in the dairy barn and enjoy showing dairy at the county fair.

Gerald has served on local coop boards, been president of their church congregation, and served as president and secretary for the Minnesota Brown Swiss Association, president and director on the National Brown Swiss Association, and president for National Purebred Dairy Cattle Association. Gerald was on the Swiss Valley Farms Company board for 27 years and served as secretary and president for 14 years. This also gave him the opportunity to be a director on the National Milk Producers Association and director on World Dairy Expo for 19 years. He served on the Houston County Fair Board for 20 years, also as President; and showed livestock at the county fair since 1951. Throughout the years, Gerald has served as dairy judge at many county, regional, national and state dairy shows. In 2003, he had the honor of being inducted into the Minnesota Livestock Hall of Fame.

Judy has been involved with the Houston County American Cancer Society board and Relay for Life for over 18 years. She has served as president in their local church women’s group several times and also on conference boards, been a Garden Club member for over 45 years and a volunteer for the Red Cross Bloodmobile for many years.

Duron and Darin’s families have had adult leadership roles in 4-H. The grandchildren have been involved in sports and theater productions.

Gerald has been in the unique position of viewing the dairy industry from both sides. He has been involved in the production side of breeding and raising cattle, as well as being a part of the marketing industry. The most fulfilling aspect for Gerald has been the opportunity to work in partnership with his family to produce quality cattle. Without his family, these opportunities would not have been possible.

The Bratland family is one of the many farm families from around the state, one from each participating county, being honored by the University this year. The families will be officially recognized in a ceremony Thursday, August 9 at the annual Farmfest near Redwood Falls, MN. Profiles of the 2012 honorees and information on the recognition event can be found on the U’s farm family website, http://mnfarmfamilies.cfans.umn.edu.

Families receiving honors were selected by their local county Extension committees and have demonstrated a commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture and agriculture production.

“The 2012 Farm Families were chosen based on their contributions to agriculture and their communities,” said Bev Durgan, dean of University of Minnesota Extension. “Farm families are the foundation of Minnesota communities. More than 90 percent of Minnesota farms are operated by a farm family. These farm families live and work in our rural and urban communities.”

The Bratland Family will be recognized locally on Friday, August 17 at 9:00 am during the 4-H Dairy Show at the Houston County Fair.

Along with Farmfest, University of Minnesota units sponsoring in this award include University of Minnesota Extension, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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