Meet the Alfords
Everything just fell into place,” is how Matt Alford describes how he became part of his wife’s family’s farming operation east of Blue Earth.
Matt, who grew up near Naper, Nebraska, met his future wife, Faribault County native and Blue Earth Area graduate Katie Erdahl, about 10 years ago.
“She was working at Sanford Health Systems in Sioux Falls at the time,” Matt recalls.
After dating for a couple of years the couple tied the knot in 2013.
“We moved so we could be close to the farm where I grew up, near Naper,” Matt comments. “We had about of 1,000 acres of actual row crop land and about as many acres in pasture ground.”
He explains he was raised on a diversified farm, the oldest of three sons.
“We raised corn and soybeans and we also had a cow-calf herd,” Matt shares. “I also had a seed dealership.”
While in Nebraska, the Alfords also became active in their community.
“Katie was an outreach athletic trainer and covered three high schools,” Matt explains. “She designed conditioning programs for those three schools and was the on-site athletic trainer at high school sports events.”
The couple were also busy coaching basketball.
“I coached boys and girls junior varsity and varsity for Boyd County Schools,” Matt says. “And Katie was also a coach for the junior varsity and varsity girls.”
It seems like a lot of coaching.
“We were in a small community,” Matt laughs. “You just kind of did everything.”
But changes were in store for the Alfords and that is when things ‘fell into place.’
“One of my younger brothers wanted to come home and farm,” Matt shares. “Meanwhile, Katie’s parents, Jim and Lisa were in a transition phase in their farming operation.”
And that is when the opportunity arose for Matt and Katie to move to Faribault County and become a part of the Erdahl farming operation.
“It was 2016 when we moved here and I was so excited because I got to farm in black soil now,” Matt explains. “Where I was raised the soils are a lot more variable. We have some good soils where I grew up but a lot of our ground is sandy.”
So, after spending the first years of their married life living closer to Matt’s family, Matt, Katie, and their two sons, Ben and Noah, now live closer to Katie’s family which includes her brother Kyle, who is employed by Center Creek Pork in the Granada-Huntley area, and his wife Kerry.
“Jim, Lisa, Katie and I are all involved in the operation,” Matt says. “Lisa works mostly in the office while the rest of us are out doing the farming.”
And if you think it is just the guys operating the big equipment, you would be wrong.
“Katie will run the combine and she also drives truck,” Matt says. “She typically does more work in the fall months.”
But Katie has not completely abandoned her work as an athletic trainer either.
“She has designed strength and conditioning programs for the girls at Blue Earth Area,” Matt shares.
The move to Minnesota and farming with his wife’s family brought about even more changes for the Nebraska native.
“Jim had been strip-tilling corn since 2008 and we now no-till our soybeans,” Matt comments. “We also started utilizing cover crops in the operation.”
They discovered the value of cover crops the first year Matt moved to Minnesota.
“We had ground where we had prevented planting and planted a cover crop on those acres,” he shares. “The following year when we harvested the corn crop, we had a 20 bushel per acre improvement where the cover crop had been.”
His belief in the use of cover crops has led Matt to share their farm’s story with other farmers.
“Last summer I spoke at the National Strip-Tillage Conference held in Peoria, Illinois,” he says. “And then this past winter I participated in the I-90 Soil Health Tour.”
Although he is not excited about speaking, he is passionate about the message he delivers and the chance to network with other farmers, Matt says.
“This year, 2020, all of our acres will have a cover crop,” he says. “I enjoy sharing with other farmers how we were able to implement using cover crops on our farm and the economic impact it can have on an operation.”
And there may be other changes made to their operation in the future.
“One of the big benefits of using cover crops is how it aids in weed suppression,” Matt explains. “The use of cover crops lowers our chemical use and expenses. It also may make it easier to consider organic farming.”
It comes back to the consumer and the health of the land.
“More and more people are concerned about farming practices and the use of chemicals,” he states. “Since we can improve soil health by using cover crops and not have to fight the weed problem sometimes associated with organic farming, it may become more feasible to consider organic farming.”
Currently Matt, like people all around the world, is concerned about the coronavirus.
“I really feel for the people in the health care industry,” Matt says. “A lot is being asked of them.”
But, things still need to get done.
“It (the pandemic) does not change the fact we need to get prepared to plant our crops,” he comments. “The economic part of the pandemic is concerning. The ability to make a profit farming was already strained. It could take a long time to recover from this.”
Yet, Matt remains passionate about being a farmer.
“I grew up as part of a multi-generation farm and now I am part of a different multi-generation farm. It is all I have ever known,” he shares. “And whether it was living in Nebraska, or now in the Blue Earth area, there is just something special about living in a farming community.”