Bricelyn couple one of top 10 young farmers in the nation
A Bricelyn couple was recently recognized as one of the top 10 young farmers in the United States.
Andy and Kirsten Lorenz own and operate a dairy farm north of Bricelyn, called ‘Lorenz Land Dairy.’
Last November they captured top honors in the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award competition.
They were given the honor and were presented with the award at the state Farm Bureau convention in Duluth.
“They looked at our whole farming operation for the competition,” Andy Lorenz says. “Including our financial growth and our effective use of capital.”
Kirsten Lorenz adds that it was a detailed 18-page application form they had to complete.
Farm Bureau Federation says the state contestants are selected on their exceptional efforts in agriculture through farm management and leadership achievements.
The state award includes a $500 prize, and a trip to the national convention, which was held Jan. 8-12 in Atlanta, Ga.
“Of course, it was the weekend that Atlanta got hit by a snowstorm,” Andy says. “There wasn’t anything open, not even a restaurant – they completely shut down.”
The Lorenzes were competing with 29 other young farmers and ranchers from around the country at the Atlanta convention.
“It was a privilege to represent Minnesota and compete, and meet the other state Achievement Award winners,” Andy says. “I liked learning about their farms and what made them successful. It will be a benefit to our farm in the future.”
The Lorenzes made the cut to the final top 10. After that, the top five were named, recognized with awards, and given prizes.
“We know we were somewhere between six and 10 in the nation,” Andy says. “We would have liked to have made the top five, but, we are happy to be in the top 10.”
The No. 1 top young farmer in the country received a brand new Dodge pickup as a prize. The next four all received yard tractors, valued at $19,000 apiece.
“That would have been pretty great,” Andy says with a big smile. “Oh, well.”
The Lorenzes did receive a prize, a trip to Washington, D.C., which they will take this coming September.
“We are looking forward to that,” Andy says.
Of course, it means they will again have to find someone to milk the cows while they are gone.
“My dad (Owen) milked for me when we were in Atlanta,” Andy says. “He and I farmed together for a few years.”
Andy and Kirsten are fifth generation farmers on the same land north of Bricelyn, living in the house where Andy grew up. The farm was started in 1888.
“My dad farmed here, my grandpa John before him, my great-grandpa Herman, and my great-great-grandpa John,” Andy says. “And, we have always milked cows.”
Andy remembers that they milked 44 cows when he was a youth growing up on the farm.
They were up to 70 cows when he was attending high school, and 125 cows when he was in college.
After Andy graduated from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 1999, he returned home to farm with his father.
“Ever since I was four years old, I knew I wanted to milk cows as my job,” he says. “It is never the same, always something new to do each day. I really enjoy it.”
At that time, in 1999, Andy and Owen increased the operation and began to milk 180 cows. They also built a new barn.
“A couple of years ago we downsized and went from 180 cows to 85,” Andy says.
Basically, his father sold off his share of the cows and got out of the dairy business. Owen still does grain farming on his part of the Lorenz farm.
“We had decided at that time to change and become an organic dairy,” Andy says. “And, we have successfully made the transition to organic.”
Being organic means they use no chemicals, fertilizers, insecticides or herbicides on the crop ground they use for raising feed for the cows.
Plus, they don’t use any antibiotics or hormones on the cows.
“We raise our own feed – corn, soybeans, hay and alfalfa – on 250 acres of land, and we don’t use chemicals on it,” says Kirsten.
Plus, a certified organic dairy has to have its cows pastured, and grazing for 30 percent of its feed during the growing season. The Lorenzes have 30 acres of pasture, and several paddocks on the farm.
The two explain that the land has to have no chemical application for three years - and the cows drug-free one full year – before the USDA will certify them as an organic dairy.
“We were certified as organic in October of 2009,” Kirsten says.
Because they are an organic dairy, they are paid a higher price for their milk. They sell it to Organic Valley Co-op from Laforge, Wis. The co-op sends a truck to pick up the milk every other day.
“There are five other organic farms within 70 miles of here, so they pick up from them as well,” Andy says.
The two say they have decided organic is the best way for them to go, but don’t preach it as an option for everyone.
“We think we are better off filling a niche market,” Andy says. “And when milk prices dropped last year, we were still getting $15 to $25 more per hundredweight for our milk.”
The couple does promote the dairy industry, and organic farming, when they have the opportunity.
“We are members of the Ag Pen Pal program,” Kirsten says. “I stay in touch by email with a class in Coon Rapids, by the Cities. I send them pictures of our farm, and milking, and explain how a dairy works and where their milk comes from. They are city kids and many don’t know what a farm is like.”
Plus, they also help take books about dairy and farming to first grade classes throughout Faribault County, as part of a Farm Bureau promotion.
The Lorenzes do tend to stay busy. Andy does chores twice a day, which takes two and a half to three hours each time. That includes the milking, which he does alone, at 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“I have helped out with the milking, but not usually,” Kirsten says. Owen Lorenz, who lives just up the road, will come over and help out his son if needed. Andy’s two brothers have also come and helped from time to time, when they are in the area.
Kirsten, a Blue Earth native and BEA graduate, works a couple of days a week at Blue Earth Drug as a pharmacy technician.
“I worked at Zitnak Pharmacy for two years, and now for Blue Earth Drug for about a year,” she says. Kirsten is also a member of the Kiester Ambulance Squad.
The couple have three children: Aaron, 7, in first grade; Brady, 4; and Abbey, 2.
“I guess I sometimes wonder if Aaron, or maybe Brady, will be interested in dairy farming, and we will have a sixth generation farming operation,” Andy says. “But, only time will tell for sure.”