Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reconnecting with my rural roots at “A Day on the Farm” June 23, 2013

NEARLY FORTY YEARS AGO I left the family farm in southwestern Minnesota bound for college in Mankato.

All these decades later I still miss the farm, yearn for those days of country quiet, the soothing pulse of the milking machine, the bellow of a cow, the nudge of a calf, the unmistakable scent of freshly-baled alfalfa.

Walking toward the Wegners' farm south of Faribault.

My first glimpse of the Wegners’ farm south of Faribault.

Saturday afternoon I reconnected with my rural roots at “A Day on the Farm” hosted by Ron and Diane Wegner and their daughters, Brianna and Kaylee, and sponsored by the Rice County American Dairy Association and the Minnesota Beef Council.

Vehicles lined both sides of Appleton Avenue near the Wegners' farm.

Vehicles lined both sides of Appleton Avenue near the Wegners’ farm.

The free meal was provided by the Minnesota Beef Council, the Rice County American Dairy Association and Hastings Co-op Creamery (to which the Wegners sell their milk).

The free meal was provided by the Minnesota Beef Council, the Rice County American Dairy Association and Hastings Co-op Creamery (to which the Wegners sell their milk).

Vehicles lined the gravel road leading to the Wegners’ dairy and crop farm south of Faribault as skies cleared and almost 600 visitors lined up for free cheeseburgers, malts and milk and then wandered the farm site.

Visitors toured the barn to see the cows and calves.

Visitors toured the barn to see the cows and calves.

It was a near perfect day—albeit a bit sultry—to check out this dairy operation, which, with 50 registered Holstein milk cows, 50 head of young stock and 15 springing heifers, still fits the definition of a family farm.

Rice County Dairy Princess Tracie Korbel takes photos while Dairy Princess Kaylee Wegner tends the calf.

Rice County Dairy Princess Tracie Korbel takes photos while Dairy Princess Kaylee Wegner tends the calf.

Turning the calf/kid photos into buttons.

Turning the calf/kid photos into buttons.

I felt comfortably at home here, remembering my years of feeding calves as I watched Rice County Dairy Princess Kaylee Wegner tend a calf while Princess Tracie Korbel photographed youngsters with the baby animal. The photos were then adhered to buttons.

Two-year-old Benjamin points out his "Got milk?" tattoo.

Two-year-old Benjamin points out his “Got milk?” tattoo.

Simple country pleasures: swinging and playing cow bean bag toss.

Simple country pleasures: swinging and playing cow bean bag toss.

The hay bale maze between the barn and the house. The scent of freshly baled alfalfa caused me to linger here for awhile.

The hay bale maze between the barn and the house. The scent of freshly baled alfalfa caused me to linger here for awhile.

Other kids’ activities included a hay bale maze, cow bean bag toss, temporary tattoo applications and a ride on a swing tied to a tree. Fun stuff on a rare stunning summer afternoon.

Ava, 2 1/2, lives in the Twin Cities. Her grandparents, who live near Dundas, brought her to the farm because she loves animals.

Ava, 2 1/2, lives in the Twin Cities. Her grandparents, who live near Dundas, brought her to the farm because she loves animals. My husband and I dined with Ava and her grandparents.

Familiarizing kids with a farm seemed a common thread among many for coming to the farm, according to host Ron Wegner. He heard on Saturday from many grandparents who grew up on farms and brought their grandkids because “they don’t know what a cow is.”

Inside the Wegners' barn, where dairy products come from.

Inside the Wegners’ dairy barn.

But Ron was hoping to educate more than the younger generation. When I asked why he agreed to open his farm to strangers for three hours, he explained that he wanted “the town people to come to a dairy farm and see where milk products come from.”

Benjamin, 2, lives on a buffalo farm near Lonsdale. His mom brought him to see a dairy farm. She was posing him for a photo on the tractor when I happened by.

Benjamin, 2, lives on a buffalo farm near Lonsdale. His mom brought him to see a dairy farm. She was posing him for a photo on the tractor when I happened by.

And that seemed as good a reason as any to someone like me, who grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm.

Several calves inside the barn were a hit among visitors.

Several calves inside the barn were a hit among visitors.

CHECK BACK for more photos from “A Day on the Farm” in rural Faribault.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling