Schaefers are 2013 Valley Farmer & Homemaker
Every year, the Red River Valley Development Association honors couples in each of the 14 counties it serves with the Valley Farmer and Homemaker Award.
Roger and Anita Schaefer of Frazee are this year’s recipients from Becker County.
“It was a big honor for us,” said Roger Schaefer. “I’ve known about this award for years, and the farmers who have received it, I’ve always looked at them as the cream of the crop — the farmers who really put something back into their community.”
The award is given to couples “for the good example they have set with their family life, community service, farming or agribusiness operations and their efforts to conserve natural resources,” according to information provided by the University of Minnesota-Crookston, which hosts the annual banquet and awards ceremony.
The Schaefer family includes Roger and Anita’s six children and their spouses: Rita and Shaine Olson, Ramon and Amanda Schaefer, Rebecca and James Berg, Ryan and Jenny Schaefer, Renae and Jesse Westbrook, and Rochelle Schaefer.
Their four grandchildren are Ethan and Mason Olson, Grace and Abby Schaefer, “with another one on the way,” Roger says.
All six of their children were raised on the Schaefers’ farm near Frazee, which Roger started farming in partnership with his stepfather. “When the kids were born, they joined in,” says Roger.
The Schaefers retired from dairy farming in 2009 and went into raising Scottish Highlanders, in partnership with their daughters.
“My daughter Rebecca decided we needed to have cattle on the farm again,” Roger explained with a smile. “We’ve expanded it every year since.”
They’ve also passed on their love of dairy farming to their grandchildren.
“Our youngest grandson, Mason, says he wants to milk cows,” Roger says, adding that Mason’s grand plan is to have a dairy operation with “a million” cows.
In addition to farming, Roger Schaefer is active as a substitute teacher at Halstad and Climax schools.
He said that after graduating from Frazee schools, and serving a stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he went on to get his degree in agriculture education at North Dakota State University.
He taught agriculture classes part-time in his home district for a year, before getting the opportunity to go into partnership with his stepfather.
“I thought I was going teach until Dad retired, then I would go back to farming (on the family farm),” Roger said. “I had four brothers and one sister, but none of them wanted to farm… but I always wanted to.”
So after he received the offer to go into partnership with his stepfather, Roger and Anita decided that he would quit teaching and go into farming full time.
“To me, it was the best place to raise kids,” he said, adding that Anita was raised on a dairy farm near Height of Land Lake, so she liked the idea as well.
“The ag teachers I’ve known, 90 percent of the time would jump at the chance to go back into farming, because they’re still tied to agriculture,” Roger said.
He didn’t get back into teaching until his daughter, a teacher in the Halstad district, asked him if he’d like to try being a substitute teacher.
“I allowed my (teaching) license to expire in the 1980s,” he said. “When I renewed it and started substitute teaching, I found out that kids have really changed a lot since the 80s. And there is so much more technology involved now.”
A lifelong Frazee resident, Roger Schaefer has been involved in the Frazee Rescue, Frazee FFA, VFW, Frazee American Veterans, Detroit Lakes American Legion, Color Guard for military funerals, Minnesota Farmers Union Board of Directors, served as Becker County Farmers Union president, and he and his wife have been a teacher for Frazee’s Ag in the Classroom program for the past 18 years.
Roger said that he and his wife have donated to the Minnesota FFA Foundation every one of the past 26 years, and all of their children have received a state FFA degree. Rita, Ryan and Renae have also earned their American FFA degrees, and Rita is an ag teacher who graduated from the University of Minnesota Crookston with a degree in ag education — in fact, she was a member of the first graduating class from UMC’s then-new agriculture education program.
In 2003, the Schaefers were chosen as the University of Minnesota Extension Service’s Farm Family of the Year for Becker County —another honor that Roger said he and his family were deeply touched to receive.
“Agriculture has meant a lot to us,” he added.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.