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Minnesota honors farm families of the year

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Mares with frolicking foals grazed in the pastures at Sunup Ranch about 10 minutes from Brainerd Thursday morning as a group of young resort guests arrived for a tour.

The ranch, which raises and sells quarter horses and beef cattle, was recently recognized as one of 76 University of Minnesota 2012 Farm Families of the Year. The recognition, Vickie Kettlewell said, came as an honor and a surprise.

Vickie Kettlewell and Greg Booth met in 1978 while they were working as photographers at the Bemidji Pioneer and were married two years later. In 1993, they began managing the ranch Vickie’s parents, Reed and Barbara Kettlewell, started. The classically bred quarter horses are sold all over the nation and the world from Canada to Denmark, Great Britain to Panama.

Sunup Ranch started doing public tours as a way to give people who may no longer have a connection to a farm, a chance to see the operation up close. Thursda, a tour from Madden’s brought young resort guests from Superior, Wis. to see the ranch from a horse-drawn wagon.

Kettlewell said there are many deserving family farms in Cass County.

“We are pleased to represent them,” she said, adding they believe in the importance of family operated farms and ranches. “No one does the ranch or farm as well as a family unit.”

Starting the ranch tours, he said, was a good way to show people from the city or anyone not connected to a farm what that life is like. More and more people no longer have the reference of grandparents or aunts and uncles who operated a farm.

“It’s fun to give them a farm experience,” Booth said.

The University of Minnesota reported the diversity of Minnesota family farms may be seen by looking at a sample of the 2012 honorees:

Other farm families of the year in the region include — 4R Charolais and Angus Ranch in Aitkin County, Eller Family Farm in Mille Lacs County, Oberton Honey Farm in Morrison County, Lunemann Family’s Twin Eagle Dairy in Todd County, and Mertens Family Dairy Farm in Wadena County.

Families were selected by their county Extension committees for having demonstrated a commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture.

“Farm families and agriculture are a major driver of Minnesota’s economy and the vitality of Minnesota’s rural communities,” said Bev Durgan, dean of University of Minnesota Extension, in a news release. “The University of Minnesota is proud to recognize these outstanding families for their contributions to agriculture and their communities.”

The farm families of the year will be officially recognized in a ceremony Aug. 9 at the annual Farmfest near Redwood Falls. Profiles of the 2012 honorees and information on the recognition event is on the university’s farm family website at More information on Farmfest, may be found at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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