Senior Connections Senior Connections Nov. 2018 - Page 2

Leaving a farming legacy in Wright County STARRLA CRAY Associate Editor In the 1950s, Gary Diers was named an FFA Chapter Star Greenhand at Howard Lake High School. Now, 60 years later, his granddaughter Mikayla Thorson has earned the same honor. The award is given to one freshman involved in FFA each year. “I still have my jacket, and it still fi ts,” Gary said. Gary and Mikayla recently posed together with their matching FFA jackets, both dark blue with gold lettering. Mikayla, 15, joined FFA when she was a seventh- grader at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District. Now a sophomore, she is enjoying every aspect of the program. For Gary, FFA and vocational agriculture were added to the high school curriculum in the 1956- 57 school year, after having been absent for several years. “I was a freshman that year,” Gary said. “I always knew I was going to be a farmer, so Vo Ag and FFA were just natural.” Gary didn’t participate in sports, so FFA was a way for him to get more involved. Also, it was one of the few ways to learn about public speaking at that time. “That [public speaking] is something I have used all my adult life,” Gary said. “It also created a lifelong interest in parliamentary rules for the conduct of meetings.” Gary is a proponent of lifelong learning, and encouraged his children to attend college. Mikayla’s mother, Colette, studied at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and explored other majors before discovering that farming was her true calling. “I’m very thankful for [the opportunity to attend college],” Colette commented. “I never would have met my husband or understood the passion that I had for the dairy industry if I hadn’t.” Colette and her husband, Andy Thorson, are the fi fth generation on the family farm in Waverly, known as Diers Corporation. The farm was established in 1874 by Colette’s great-great-grandfather. Colette’s parents, Gary and Linda, are still active in the day-to- day work, helping with crops, property maintenance, and more. “Our job is to try to get it to the next generation,” Andy said. Diers Corporation currently farms 900 acres (650 acres owned), and milks 250 cows. Milking is done twice a day, in a double-12 parlor. Having the larger parlor has been a big benefi t, according to Colette. The farm used to have a double-four parlor, and milking took 16 hours per day, plus set-up and clean- up time. Now, milking is done in about six hours (three hours per time), in addition to about two hours of preparation/cleanup work. “I’ve always loved the cows, and I love the people that I work with,” Colette said. “It’s more about the 2 Senior Gary Diers of rural Waverly and his grandaughter, Mikayla Thorson, have matching FFA jackets. SUBMITTED PHOTO people in the industry. It’s an industry-wide standard for dairy farmers; they just have that unique per- sonality for compassion, understanding, and work ethic.” The cows all have names, and the family can tell them apart by their faces, spots, personalities, and even their udders. “We had 200 cows when I was milking them, and I knew every one of them by name,” commented Gary, who had been helping with milking up until six years ago, when he turned 70. This year, Diers Corporation was recognized as the Wright County Farm Family of the Year. The family was chosen by the local University of Minnesota Ex- tension committee based on demonstrated commit- ment to enhancing and supporting agriculture. Gary Diers, 76, became a Chapter Star Greenhand in the 1950s. Now, his 15-year-old granddaughter, Mikayla Thorson, is following in his footsteps. SUBMITTED PHOTO All the cows at Diers Corporation in Waverly have names. They were busy snacking while the family had their photo taken. Pictured are Andy and Colette Thorson, their 11-year-old daughter Victoria “Tori,” and Colette’s parents, Linda and Gary Diers. Victoria’s sisters, Mikayla (15) and Malorie (13) aren’t pictured, since they were showing cows at the Minnesota State Fair that day. Connections November 2018 PHOTO BY STARRLA CRAY Senior Connections HJ.COM