For the Heusinkvelds, farming and family go hand in hand.
The Spring Valley farm was homesteaded in 1856, by the Graling family. Their daughter, Bonnie, then married Cleon Heusinkveld and together the young family began operating Heusinkveld Farms.
The years have brought many changes to the farm with the couple’s sons and their wives, Jeff (Darla) and Steve (Ruth), joining the operation in the early 1970s. Then, in the late 1990s, Jeff’s son, Nathan, and his wife, Misty, joined the partnership.
Today, the farm is owned by Jeff and Nathan. At 89 years old, Cleon is still helping mow hay, Steve helps with the fieldwork and Nathan’s 12-year-old-son helps wherever and whenever he can.
“Luke is our second-hand man,” Jeff revealed.
Darla agreed, saying, “I honestly think Luke could run the farm. He loves it, just loves everything about it.”
Jeff and Darla’s grandson, Connor, also loves helping out at the farm, especially with the machinery.
“I think it’s kind of cool looking at our kids and seeing what they can do at their ages. It’s a different life than growing up in town,” Misty commented.
Life on the farm is always an adventure with around 700 head of cattle to care for and milk.
To keep the cattle fed, the family works roughly 550 acres to produce corn and alfalfa crops.
On a typical day, if there is ever such a thing on a farm, milking begins at 5 in the morning and continues throughout the day with two more milkings at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.
For the most part, the milking is handled by the Heusinkvelds’ 12 employees.
“We’ve been blessed with good employees,” Jeff said.
They are proud of the fact that the three full-time and nine part-time employees are all from the area and most have been with the family for a number of years.
However, even with the help of their hardworking employees, Jeff and Nathan are constantly working with calf chores, breeding, checking the cows, fixing machinery and anything else that might come up.
“I always tell Nate and Jeff that if they figured out how many hours they worked in a week compared to their paycheck, they’d be making about a dollar an hour,” Misty quipped.
Though, it isn’t just the men going at full speed. For years Darla owned and operated the Gateway Inn in Wykoff, Misty works for the Fillmore Central School District and also does the bookkeeping for the farm and Bonnie worked alongside Cleon on the farm while raising their family.
The group’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. In 2013, the Heusinkvelds were named the Fillmore County University of Minnesota Farm Family of the Year. The family was also honored in 2009 with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Good Farm Neighbor Award and in 2007 they were named Conservationists of the Year by the Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District, along with numerous other awards.
According to Nate, the key to running a successful operation is clear, “You can’t stay stagnant and still keep up. You have to keep growing.”
Good management skills and having family members who are able and willing to continue the tradition is incredibly important as well.
Although it seems simple, Jeff pointed out another fundamental piece of their success, “We all get along.”
Even though their dairy farm has been recognized through the year with numerous awards, for the Heusinkvelds, the most important point of pride is family and the traditions being carried on by each generation.