Browns honored by U of M as Becker County Farm Family of the Year
When Jay and Anna Brown moved to rural Lake Park in 1991, it was the drought in their native North Dakota that brought them there.
"Until this year, it's been perfect (weather-wise)," said Jay. "This year has been a little dry... but one (dry year) out of 20 isn't so bad."
Married since 1978, the couple raised their eight children -- sons Robert, Daniel, Thomas and David, and daughters Nancy, Jennifer, Amy and Karen -- to help them on the farm, which they embraced "100 percent," Anna said.
"It's certainly been a family operation," she added.
"The majority of them still stop by and help whenever they can," Jay said.
"If they're home, they're in the barn," said Anna, adding that their youngest son David, 15, still lives at home.
They have one daughter who lives in Colorado, and a son who works as a ferrier in Montana and North Dakota, but "the others are still relatively close by," Jay said.
Two of their daughters are married, Anna added, and have given them six grandchildren -- with a seventh to be added later this year.
Though the dairy business has its ups and downs, the Browns have been successful enough to keep their business going after many others have pulled out.
"I would bet there are less than half of the dairy farmers here in Becker County that there were when we moved here," Jay said.
When asked what advice he would give to people looking to start out in the dairy business, he said he would tell them, "Go for it. We need more young people in the dairy business. There are too many big corporations, and us old duffers. We need more new, small farms."
The Browns hope that eventually, one or two of their children will take over the farm business, but Jay added that he expects to keep going "30 or 40 more years yet."
"It keeps us out of trouble," he joked.
It also wins them awards. The Browns were named as Becker County Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota late last month, and were honored at a ceremony Saturday during the Becker County Fair.
"Jay joked during the presentation that this was our vacation for the year," Anna said, referring to the fact that running a dairy farm is a year-round job.
"We milk about 100 dairy cows, and have about 240 animals altogether," Jay said.
"We also have about 300 acres that we farm, mostly corn, alfalfa and triticale, which is to keep the animals fed."
Last year, the family's farmland was certified organic, and the couple is currently transitioning their dairy operation to sell organic milk.
When they're not working, the couple has been active in their Fargo church, 4-H activities, and home-schooling their children, which has taken priority over other community activities, Anna noted.
One activity that has always been a highlight of the family's year, however, is the county fair.
"The fair has always been a big part of the kids' lives," Anna said.
"They just lived for the fair -- it was always the highlight of their summer."
This past weekend, David was showing cattle at the 4-H beef and dairy shows, so they were in town for that, as well as the award presentation, which they both admitted was a big honor.
"It was pretty nice," Jay said.
"We knew we'd been nominated a couple of months ago, and then the family got a call to tell us to come to the fair," Anna added.
As they do most things these days, the couple attended the ceremony together.
"We're kind of like an old team of horses," Anna said with a smile.
"That's true," Jay added.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.