Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Meet Bob, the opinionated farmer from Madelia September 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:46 AM
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I met Bob Michniewicz  and his wife, Judy, selling their woodcrafts at the recent Rice County Steam and Gas Engine Show. He wouldn’t allow me to photograph his art, except for a single sign and a single cow, not wanting others to steal his ideas. However, a few other crafts got into the photo when Bob obliged my request for a portrait.

OCCASIONALLY YOU MEET a character, and you know it just looking at the person, before lips even part to utter a single syllable.

I knew, just knew, Bob Michniewicz was a character when I saw him and his set-up at the Rice County Steam and Gas Engine Show in rural Dundas. With kitschy wooden lawn ornaments—you know the kind—and wind chimes and eye-catching messages defining his space, Bob was bound to be interesting.

Just look at the poster Bob leaned front and center against a support post for the tent under which he and his wife of 50 years, Judy, were peddling their wares.

Bob was gauging interest in this sign with plans to print it on vinyl and sell it should interest run high.

Naturally, I asked Bob about that message. Seems he’s a bit worked up about all the non-farm folks moving onto farms in his area and then complaining about noise or smell or dust and such from working farms.

“Farmers were here first,” he emphasizes. And that, in this retired farmer’s opinion, should settle any matters of dispute.

All around him, Bob views the ever-changing rural Minnesota landscape. Within a three-mile radius of his farm (the home place) 3 ½ miles from Madelia, only four farmers remain. The rest are people living on the building sites.

Therein, according to Bob, lies the problem. “People don’t know where farm stuff comes from.” I’m not sure I understand what he means, but I think I do and Bob doesn’t allow me to interrupt this rather one-sided conversation.

Bob just steamrolls forward, asking if I know that potatoes in stores are sprayed to keep them from sprouting. (I don’t know this and check later to see if Bob, who is a gardener, is right, and apparently he is, although I’m not saying all potato growers, all stores, follow this practice.)

He looks me directly in the eye and says: “Next time you eat mashed potatoes, you may as well take a shot glass of Round-up with a beer chaser.”

Like I said, Bob’s a character, and an outspoken one at that.

Bob certainly possesses a sense of humor, as seen in this bovine lawn art.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


6 Responses to “Meet Bob, the opinionated farmer from Madelia”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Oh my goodness!! I LOVE Bob!! There was a time when I was into holstein cows—I had a red and white kitchen and one of my friends thought I needed to decorate with cows and got me a cookie jar—then it started and I had cows everywhere! I would so have so bought one of his lawn cows!!! Thanks for this great “interview” even if it was one sided and for showing some of his works of art!!! 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Beth Ann, if you would like one of those cows and I attend the flea market next year, I’d gladly buy one for you from Bob. Just give me the word.

      My mom is really into cows, although not as much as she once was. She had cow curtains for awhile there in her kitchen and cow stuff sitting everywhere.

      I grew up on a dairy farm and my dad milked Holsteins. But I always liked Brown Swiss, their soulful eyes, especially, and wanted him to buy that breed. But it was not to be.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        Oh Brown Swiss are amazing, too!!! I totally agree about their eyes!!! I am past the Holstein decorating phase but it does not prevent me from always looking at them and loving them!!!!

  2. I have met a few “Bob’s” myself! and I think the sign is funny. A friend and I were laughing about the beautiful chicken coops seen in magazine or the internet…it is not the real world.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, yes, there are quite a few Bobs in the world. Interesting characters for sure. Did you notice his t-shirt?

      Two of my cousins are urban chicken farmers, raising chickens in south Minneapolis. There, as I understand, they must get the approval of neighbors before setting up a mini chicken operation.

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