Through good times and bad, for half a century, Jim and Eileen Griffnow have raised hardy, gentle Hereford beef cattle on their farm 12 miles east of Detroit Lakes off Highway 34.
Even when beef prices were low, as they are now, they never gave up - just continued culling and managing their herd, always keeping the best animals and improving the stock.
"Four or five years ago cattle prices were really good," he said. "Now they are at an all-time low almost, but you can't jump in and out - you gotta stay in for the long haul ... It has taken us a lifetime with the breeding to get good genetics that work for you, you have to stay in it."
That persistence has paid off: Their Red Oak Farm cattle have sold to buyers in seven states, and Jim was recently named to the Minnesota Hereford Breeders Hall of Fame.
Jim grew up on a dairy farm near Big Toad Lake and loved the animals there, but he always admired his uncle Adolph's herd of Herefords. "They are very winter-hardy, gentle, good mammas, fertile," he said. And part of him thought it would be nice to follow in his uncle's footsteps someday.
The summer after high school graduation in 1958 he joined the Army National Guard, and a short time later he launched his own business in artificial turkey insemination, serving area turkey farmers for 26 years.
During this time he and Eileen bought the 120-acre farm where they still live and raise Herefords. They also bought his parents 240-acre farm near Big Toad Lake, along with another 160 acres. They sold about 100 less productive acres of that over the years as hunting land.
"We have lived on our present farm 51 years and have been involved with Hereford cattle almost 51 years," Jim said.
During these years, both Jim and Eileen worked off the farm, with Eileen working mostly part-time as an LPN and in home health care. They raised three children - Brian, Marcia and Jeremy, who all helped with farm work and cattle chores, and who were involved in 4-H and showed their Hereford cattle.
They showed at county 4-H shows, the state fair, and regional and junior national Hereford shows. "This was always a fun working event as it was our vacation away from home, showing our cattle," Jim said.
The Griffnows have been involved in Becker County 4-H for 42 years and are still active. He served 27 years as Beef Project leader and 15 years as Auction Committee treasurer.
Jim is 78 years old now, and his herd of 22 Herefords is about a third of what it used to be. "We still enjoy what we are doing, at a slower pace," he said. He gets some help around the farm from family and friends, and he still enjoys traveling and showing his Herefords. He's made the January trip to the "Super Bowl of the cattle industry," the National Western Stock Show and rodeo in Denver, for the past 15 years. He has also sold cattle for over 30 years at the annual December Go-pher the Purple Sale in Hutchinson.
The Hereford Hall of Fame honor is the latest of several Griffnow highlights and awards over the years, including the Becker County Farm Family of the Year Award from the University of Minnesota in 1991 and the Red River Valley Farm and Homemaker Award for Becker County in 2005.
Red Oak Farm hosted the Minnesota Hereford Breeders Picnic in 1990 and the Minnesota Polled Hereford field days and tours in 2006 and 2014, and the Griffnows received the Becker County Fair Builders award in 2016.
"It's been a fun family time all the way," Jim said. "I'm 78-and-a-half, I just thank the good Lord for every day we have. I just try to keep active - we keep busy at a slower pace."