NIMROD, Minn. — With her bright beaming smile, pep in her step and her contagious laughter while standing in front of a backdrop of hay bales, one thing is obvious: Sarah Kuschel exudes passion. From talking about her chore filled mornings to late night cattle checks, Kuschel is living out an important life lesson her father taught her.

“My dad always told me to find a job that you love and you'll never work a day in your life,” Kuschel said.

Luckily for the Minnesota agriculture industry and Kuschel’s local community, she has done just that.

“I can honestly say I love what I do,” Kuschel said.

Finding the passion

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Kuschel was born into the agriculture industry, growing up on a Minnesota tree farm. Like many farm kids, she took agriculture education in school and was an active member of the FFA. However, Kuschel’s experience in the organization was unique compared to most.

“My dad was my agriculture education teacher and I loved every minute of being his student. Everyone always asked me what I thought about having my dad as my teacher and I truly loved it. The only frustration he ever caused me was if I needed help with homework at 10 o’clock at night and he would always say ‘well I’m not going to help you because I couldn’t help another student right now’ which drove me crazy,” Kuschel said.

For a while, Kuschel entertained the idea of becoming an agriculture educator just like her father, but decided to take another route.

After high school, Kuschel pursued her degree in business administration, wanting to use it in some capacity within the agriculture industry. Kuschel now uses that degree as a curriculum specialist for Minnesota Ag in the Classroom, where she gets to share her passion for agriculture literacy.

Rocking K Ranch utilizes ranch horses when they sort their cattle. Kuschel believes the horses help keep the cattle much more calm than if they used a different method. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Rocking K Ranch utilizes ranch horses when they sort their cattle. Kuschel believes the horses help keep the cattle much more calm than if they used a different method. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Kuschel says having her father as a mentor and teacher helped to cultivate the passion she has for ag literacy. Through this position she helps give agriculture educators resources to use in the classroom and much more. Kuschel also has two siblings that are agriculture educators themselves.

“My dad truly made us realize how much he loved his job and how great it was to impact and influence others,” Kuschel said.

A wearer of many hats

For some, 5 o’clock on a Friday evening cannot come fast enough. Yet for Kuschel, the work week never stops.

“People always say if you want something done, ask a busy person because they won't say no. Well, that's me. I struggle to say no because I think giving back to the community is so important and valuable. I hardly sleep, but sleeping is for when you get old,” Kuschel said.

While being a curriculum coordinator for Minnesota Ag in the Classroom is her full-time position, Kuschel wears many hats, for her family, as well as her community.

Sarah and Miles Kuschel enjoy working together as a team on Rocking K Ranch. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Sarah and Miles Kuschel enjoy working together as a team on Rocking K Ranch. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
After marrying her high school sweetheart, Kuschel moved to Rocking K Ranch, which has been in her husband’s family since 1946. The ranch specializes in a calf-cow operation, where they sell their offspring by private treaty and through online auctions. Like many women on the farm, Kuschel plays a vital role in the ranch’s day to day operation.

“My day-to-day duty on the ranch varies by what needs to be done. I focus a lot on the livestock aspect of things, all the administration work, scheduling, helping with genetics and breeding, keeping the payroll, parts and lunch runner, mom taxi — I do whatever tasks need to be done, whether that is salting the cattle or mowing the lawn,” Kuschel said.

In addition, Kuschel’s husband enjoys having his wife be a part of the family ranch.

“It's great working with my wife. I have someone I can bounce ideas back and forth around with and good or bad she’ll be honest about it,” Miles Kuschel said.

The Kuschels aim for 4,000 round bales each year for their herd of cattle. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
The Kuschels aim for 4,000 round bales each year for their herd of cattle. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
When she is not busy on ranch, Kuschel acts as her township’s fire warden. This duty includes writing burning permits for her community members. The role has been in the Kuschel family for quite some time.

“My husband, Miles, his grandparents served in the role for years. When they decided they wanted to take a step down, we volunteered to step in to keep someone in the area doing it. It's a valuable resource to our community we felt like because we are a half hour from the DNR county station,” Kuschel said.

Kuschel also serves on her county’s Farm Bureau board where she serves as secretary-treasurer. She enjoys learning about Minnesota’s many types of producers through this role.

“Minnesota agriculture is so diverse and ever changing, so I love that I can sit down and talk to different producers and we can learn from each other and our challenges,” Kuschel said.

The Rocking K Ranch has been in the Kuschel family since 1946. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
The Rocking K Ranch has been in the Kuschel family since 1946. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Kuschel also works with local schools to help bring agriculture experiences to those who don’t live on a farm themselves.

“Sarah invited our first grade students out to their ranch, but before we go, Sarah comes in and gives lessons in our classrooms. After that, all the students go out to the ranch and they give us a grand tour. Sarah goes above and beyond the call of duty always, she is such an important pillar of her community,” Kari Carlson, first grade teacher at Sebeka public schools, said.

Kuschel is also a high school cheerleading coach, on the Nimrod Community Hall board and helps coordinate the Miss Nimrod Scholarship Pageant.

Women in Agriculture

The Kuschels' cattle operation encompasses around 600 head. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
The Kuschels' cattle operation encompasses around 600 head. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
While Kuschel most certainly wears an abundance of hats, it's clear that one of her favorites is being a woman in agriculture, a role she was just recently awarded for.

“Winning Farmfest's first ever Woman Farmer of the Year was humbling and amazing, I was taken aback about just being nominated. After I could reflect upon it, I was so touched and so honored. I hope it will inspire other young women to stay in agriculture and even my own two girls that work alongside me everyday, knowing the work we do here doesn't go unrecognized and that it's a worthwhile effort that we're putting in,” Kuschel said.

Kuschel is excited to see where women go within the agriculture industry and believes now more than ever their voices are being heard.

“I think we are starting to see a shift and people are starting to realize that there are a lot of women in agriculture today who are the primary business decision-maker, which is amazing,” Kuschel said.

Sarah Kuschel feeds the ranch horses. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Sarah Kuschel feeds the ranch horses. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
And much like her father did for her, Kuschel is now instilling the love for the industry into the next generation, watching them find the job they love.

“I am beyond thrilled that I get to raise my daughters around agriculture. The joy I see them have everyday is just awesome, I absolutely love it, it's such a strong industry and there are so many opportunities. I am excited to see where their current interests lead them in the future of agriculture,” Kuschel said.

And if they are anything like their mother or grandfather, they'll never work a day in their life.