Raising a Farmer

Alot of work but always room for laughter

Farms and families are intertwined

This column was originally published in Agweek April 13, 2019

The first week in April I had the opportunity to speak at four locations for Women in Ag seminars across Minnesota. My topic was stress and how I handle that.

As I was getting ready to go, my cousin asked how my prepping was going, and I replied, “I’m getting stressed about having to talk about stress. It’s ridiculous!” It turned out to be a stress-free, fantastic week.

Throughout the week there was something common among all four seminars. Women would come up to me and share how they want their families back. Women in agriculture want their farms to put their families first. For about the last five years, agriculture as a whole has put the business part ahead of the family part.

Experts tell us in a roundabout way, family needs to be last. I get confused by this because agriculture brags about how they are “family” owned or “family” operated. When family isn’t first on your farm, how can we brag about family?

A couple of years ago, I was talking to an “expert” and trying to explain how on family farms what affects the family affects the farm and what affects the farm affects the family. They are one. They need to be intertwined, because that is why we do it. They are intertwined because one makes us better at the other.

I gave her an example of how we had plans and help lined up for when baby No. 2 came to cover my workload. Well, Vivian decided to come unexpectedly almost six weeks early. Within a couple of hours, we had to figure out chores and who would get Everett off the bus because we were at the hospital. This agriculture “expert” told me, “You didn’t have adequate day care lined up.”

After this, I started paying attention to what the “experts” are saying. The “experts” are telling us family doesn’t belong on the farm. They don’t say it directly, but they are saying it.

After every talk I gave at the seminars, women would come up to me and say how they want their families first. They want family meals again. They want to spend time with their families in the field. They want to be able to talk to their families and not be so short with each other. They want their families to slow down. They want their farm to slow down. They want to be able to celebrate birthdays with each other. They want to slow down and enjoy what is around them. They want to enjoy each other. They want to pause and enjoy sunsets with each other. Because this is why we do this. Women want their families back. The hard work is worth it because we get to be with our families.

I hear a lot in conversations: “We can’t farm like we used to.” I wonder, when we think like this, what do we lose. I know there are many women across Minnesota who have lost their families to the noises of agriculture and they want them back. They want to farm like they used to.


My Favorite lady in Ag, Vivian

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Want to connect with consumers? It’s as simple as showing up

This column was originally published in Agweek March 30, 2019

The kids and I have been spending some Friday afternoons handing out dairy samples at one of our local grocery stores. This goes to the top of my list of favorite ways to connect with consumers. This is a time when I am able to put a real face to a dairy farmer in my community.

This is a time where I am able to hear and see what people are putting in their grocery cart. This is a time for me to connect with people about food. This is a way to show my kids how showing up, even for a little bit makes a difference. This is a time where I can ask the grocery store director and dairy case managers questions about products and the whys of a grocery store.

This past winter, words I heard continue to come to the forefront of my mind, “How do we make agriculture accessible to urban? How do we make them care, and they should care.” The small amount of time I spend at the grocery store brings agriculture to the store just by me saying, “I’m a dairy farmer.”

For the past year, I have been hearing farmers being really frustrated about markets and checkoff dollars. I used to be one of the them. I was listening to the noise of the blanket answers. Answers that are given but don’t really fit how I look at myself or our farm. I was listening to the noise of “we need to be innovative,” “we need to market this way,” “milk needs different packaging,” “we need more technology,” the list is endless of the noise.

The last six months, I stopped listening to the noise. I stopped being frustrated of feeling like “no one was understanding what the actual needs are.” I started doing. I started being more focused on my own community. I stopped listening to the noise and started doing what I know works on my own by just showing up.

People want to feel connected to people more now than they ever have. Social media is a wonderful thing, but it has also separated us from each other and relationship building. To bring agriculture to urban areas, we need to show up. Showing up builds relationships. Showing up gives the connection people want with their food. People want to talk about food. People want to share why they like one food choice over the other. People need the connection with food they can’t find on social media. I talk about food all the time, why wouldn’t anybody else?

When the kids and I show up for sample day, we listen to the consumer. We listen to their food choices and what they like best. We listen. When a customer asks where they can find the product we are handing out, Everett and Vivian show the customer exactly where it is in the store freezer. What better way to connect agriculture and urban. What better way to connect farmers and food. What better way to connect with people. I understand not everyone can show up at a grocery store but there are ways you can show up. For example, if you are asked to bring something to share at church for fellowship, offer to bring whole milk to share. These small things do matter.

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A mix between winter and spring.


Last chances to play in the snow.

Hans and the kids are enjoying last snowfalls for the season.

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TransFARMation Inaugural Podcast

Below is the link of the inaugural podcast series I have been a part of. The series is to bring awareness of the stresses farmers are facing now. When I was asked to be part of the planing team last summer I said, yes. The team is an amazing group of people who collaborate ideas and listen to farmers.

A big shout out to our fearless leader Meg Moynihan. She truly is a friend, a cheerleader and mentor to me in so many ways!   transFARMation TeamThe TransFARMation Team

If you have any ideas or issues you would like us to tackle please us know!


TransFARMation: How Not to Let the Farm Wreck Your Marriage



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Testifying at the Minnesota State Capitol

The week leading up to February 26, 2019 I couldn’t sleep. The kids and I were finishing up the Morrison County Milk Project. There was a lot on my mind.

This was one of the big reasons why I couldn’t sleep.
I was testifying and I need to do well for my fellow dairy farmers. I needed to do well for my children. I needed to do well for my husband. I needed to do well for my community. I had 5 minutes and I needed to make sure it mattered.

The night before I was to testify, Everett was excited. He was excited because we were all going to the Minnesota State Capitol. As I kept telling Everett he needed to get to bed, he asked me if I was scared or worried. I could have told him “No, moms never get scared.”
I didn’t, I told him what I was feeling. “No, I’m not scared but I am nervous.”

I tell my kids “when we are nervous it is ok, it just means it is really important.” On the drive down to the capitol I tried really hard to remind myself this.

Dairy begins at 52
Everett is first mentioned at 57:20
If you want to see a mom panic because you have no idea what your kid is going to do, make sure you watch 1:02:53
My testimony is at 1:21:07

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It’s ok Not to be OK

This column was originally published in Agweek March 16, 2019

This March marks one year ago when I took steps to see a counselor. The pressures of farming, finances and family were becoming too overwhelming for me to handle on my own. It was engulfing me. It was making me miserable to the point of hating where I was at in life. I wasn’t suicidal; I just wasn’t OK. I was miserable.

At the time, I hated myself and almost everyone around me. I began noticing I was pulling away from things that made me happy. When I began my mental health journey, I saw my counselor once a week, by the beginning of summer about every two weeks. By the beginning of fall, I saw her about every four to six weeks. It helps. It helps me be the best mom, wife and person for our farm I can be. It helps me realize when my mind is lying to myself and I am not a complete failure.

Seeing a counselor doesn’t mean that every day is perfect. Every day isn’t perfect.

There are still days where I feel like a complete failure and want to walk away from everything. There are still days I feel like someone could be a better mom to my kids than I am. There are still days I hate farming. Seeing someone helps me make those days farther and farther apart from each other.

There are still days when someone says, “At least you are healthy.” I grumble under my breath, “Yeah well so and so really doesn’t care about my health, they just want to get paid.”

Seeing a counselor helps me figure out my role in my life. It also helps me filter out the negative feelings of phone calls, of wanting to set up a payment plan and the person on the other end laughing and scoffing at me on the phone when I say I can’t afford $100 a week payment. Seeing a counselor helps regulate feelings of being a complete failure when this past winter we applied for heating assistance. I was OK with applying, but then they called saying we needed to fill out another form and explain why Nathan wasn’t working because he had no income. Sigh.

We all have different versions of “not being OK.” We all have different things we worry about. We all have different things that keep us up at night.

Sleepless nights still come and go. I lay awake at night worrying about things I really can’t do anything about. I have learned, it is OK not to be OK.

It is OK to need help outside of my tribe. It is OK to talk to someone and be honest how you truly feel. It does not make me weak to say I see a counselor to help me with life. It is OK to see a counselor to remind myself I am not a complete failure. It is OK to see a counselor to remind my brain to stop lying to me.

It is OK not to be OK. Seeing a counselor helps me be OK.

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Morrison County Milk Project~Final Week 6, 2/25/19

We finished the Morrison County Milk Project on Monday February 25th at the Upsala boys basketball home game as they played Swanville. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to close out the project.  I didn’t know who to cheer for, Upsala’s head coach is a dairy farmer and Swanville is my childhood home school. This game was previously cancelled due to a snow storm. Someone asked what was the biggest challenge for the project, hands down it was the weather .

IMG_3618Joey Fuchs, Upsala Boys Head Coach and Dairy Farmer 


The final Dairy Basket Winner for the Morrison County Milk Project, thank you to all who purchased a chance over the last 6 weeks! 

Over the course of 6 weeks the Morrison County Milk Project brought milk to over 700 students through out Morrison County in Swanville, Upsala, Pierz, Little Falls and Royalton. Along with bringing milk we were able to raise a total of $1,549 in these communities by selling $1 a chance dairy baskets. Teams were able to decide where they would like the funds to go. They went to a student needing a surgery, a family who lost their home in a house fire, FFA, basketball booster clubs and a student who spent time in the hospital. These small acts of kindness was the fuel for the Morrison County Milk Project, Small things matter.

I have always thought and believed “small things matter”. I try my hardest to teach my kids this because small things matter the most to me. I wear a bracelet to remind me this. IMG_3662

When I started the project I had no idea what legs it was going to grow. I started it because I needed to do something. I needed to take control of a situation I have no control over. I can’t change the price dairy farmers are being paid for milk but I can make milk fun. I needed to spread something good into a hurting industry. I needed to do something. I had no idea what the project was going to mean to people or even what it was going to mean to me. I just needed to do something.

The project had three steps:

1.Get milk in the hands of kids.

We brought whole white and 2% Chocolate milk after practice. The main focus was to enhance the practice not to disrupt it. I coordinated with schools when would be a good time to distribute milk. The planning and logistics took the longest, thank goodness for emails. The distributing of milk takes only about 10 minutes.

  1. What the impact of agriculture has on our communities

When myself and my children show up saying we are dairy farmers this gives a face in our community. It shows the importance of agriculture in our rural communities. To add to the project we brought a dairy basket to home games of both boys and girls games. Each team could decide where they would like the funds to go from the dairy basket chances. By doing this is, it showed students the positive impact they can have on their choices. It shows our youth in our community small things do matter.

  1. Good food choices

Food is good. Plan and simple. When kids took milk out of the cooler, they themselves were making a good food choice for themselves. They could take as much or as little as they wanted. Our culture is beginning to create confusion around food. Knowing what is good food can get confusing with all the fad diets and ready made meals.


If you have any questions about the project contact me and I will help you the best I can. brenda@raisingafarmer.com


A BIG thank you to our sponsors KempsCobornsCentral Minnesota Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of AmericaAMPIBongards CheeseFirst District Association   and the many people who helped along the way.

Thank you to the schools of Morrison County who welcomed us with open arms!

Thank you to the coaches, athletic directors and staff for coordinating with me and making this project possible!

Small things matter.

IMG_3553Coborn’s Store Little Falls Director Kyle Wensmann

IMG_3498Coborn’s Little Falls Dairy Case Manager Jerome Valentine 

IMG_3620Central Minnesota Credit Union Ag Lender Elisha Graves

KempsCobornsCentral Minnesota Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of AmericaAMPIBongards CheeseFirst District Association  

“It’s our job to create the community we want our kids to come home to. It’s our job to create the community we want our kids to live in.” ~Brenda RudolphIMG_3633

Here are the articles from the St. Cloud Times, Morrison County Record and Dairy Star











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Morrison County Milk Project Week 5 ~2/18/19-2/22/19

The last full week of The Morrison County Milk Project.

Tuesday night we were at the Swanville Girls Basketball game.

IMG_3450Jill and I. Thank you Jill for helping with the Morrison County Milk Project!

Jill and Emma Butterfass came and helped us out with the dairy basket at the game.

It was fun to cheer on my home school basketball team with family and my best friend Shannon. It is so crazy to think Shannon and I sat in the same bleachers and now we have children? I still can’t wrap my head around that.

Wednesday we were planning on going to the Royalton High School to distribute milk to the students. The snow came. School was cancelled. We decided to distribute milk after the games Thursday and Friday. I was asked in an interview what was the biggest obstacle for the project? The weather. The weather has been the biggest obstacle but we are making it work.

Nap time after playing in the snow and getting our pictures taken for the St. Cloud Times.

Thursday night we were at the boys basketball game in Royalton. We were welcomed with open arms and even with Royalton T-shirts! The kids were excited!


Seriously They WERE excited, I know the pictures does not show that. 

On Friday we were at the girls basketball game in Royalton.

Vivian was getting good at “Dollar a chance for the whole basket!” 

When this young lady won she Screamed with excitement, “It’s me!! I won!!” 

Our Favorite Player from the neighborhood!!

Saturday morning before the sun was up, Swanville/Upsala Speech team got milk to start their day heading out to their meet.

Kathleen had milk for breakfast and placed 2nd in her category at the speech meet! 


Thank you to The Morrison County Milk Project sponsors!!

KempsCobornsCentral Minnesota Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of AmericaAMPIBongards CheeseFirst District Association   



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Morrison County Milk Project Week 4~2/11/19-2/15/19

Monday we started out in two places.

The plan was to get milk to the girls Swanville team  practice and then head out to Pierz to the girls basketball game. The roads were not the best and we ended up getting to the Swanville practice late. As I walked into the school I spent K-12, I silently said to myself. “Brenda! How many times have you walked into these doors late in high school?!” I was late a lot to school. I think I had permanent detention for how many tardies I had.

We were able to get milk to some of the girls but not all. Instead of bringing the milk home we gave milk to both boys teams Swanville and Bertha-Hewitt who were playing in Swanville. On the plus side I can now say the Morrison County Milk Project made its way into Todd county.

Swanville girls and Bertha-Hewitt

We left Swanville and headed into Pierz for the girls basketball game.

The support we recieved from Pierz FFA Advisor Pat Tax and

Athletic Director David Rocheleau were incredible.   

Thank you Pierz School for welcoming us into your school. On the way home from the game Everett and I talked about how sad and happy it feels for the Morrison County Milk Project coming to an end. This was our last night in Pierz.

Tuesday night we were at the Little Falls Boys Hockey game. Little Falls Boys Hockey focused their night on raising money for a family who lost their home in a house fire.

LF boys hockey have some great role models in Coach Couture and Arena Manager Mike Corrow ensuring they know small things do matter.

When I first met Mike when we brought milk to practice, he opened the door with a big smile, “Are you the Milk Lady!” Yeah, he won me over.

Coach Couture and Arena Manager Mike Corrow

LF Hockey basket winner

Morrison County Milk Project spent our Valentines Day with some BIG love for MILK with the Swanville Girls Basketball team. The wind and snow cancelled their game but we were able to bring them milk after practice. Someone asked me what the biggest challenge has been for the project? The weather has been the biggest challenge but we are making it work.

We were so happy to have dairy farmers Jill and Brett Butterfass & Family to help hand out milk. Anthony had his Raising a Farmer shirt on and ready to hand out milk. The excitement handing out milk and receiving milk is contagious!

IMG_3364Swanville Girls Basketball Team with the best Future Farmers

Friday night we cheered on the Swanville Boys Basketball team with the Butterfass family. All proceeds for the dairy basket went to Chloe Tepley.


Right before halftime, I sat with a reporter at a lunch table in my childhood school. A lunch table I sat at almost 20 years ago. As I was interviewed about the Morrison County Milk Project, my children played, came and talked to me along with my best friends two girls. The same best friend from high school where we would talk about our futures at one of the same lunch tables. Life can be amazing, sometimes it slaps us in the face, sometimes it creeps up and sometimes it surprises us.

Saturday afternoon we were in Upsala cheering on the girls basketball team. All proceeds for this basket went to the girls basketball team.


OF course you have Nacho Cheese with popcorn

Upsala Dairy Basket Winner

Working with GREAT people from all the schools and people volunteering their time to the project has made this project amazing.

Small things matter. Small things can turn into big things. Big things can turn into great things. This project is turning into something amazing.

KempsCobornsCentral Minnesota Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of AmericaAMPIBongards CheeseFirst District Association   





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Week 3 ~of The Morrison County Milk Project~2/4/19-2/8/1

The week started out strong with the power of milk.

Monday Vivian and I spent part of our morning on Falls Radio KLTF Party Line sharing about our Project. Callers called in asked questions and we talked about milk and food. Thank you to Ron, Melanie and Steve supporting my project. Thank you.

After school on Monday we headed to the Little Falls Girls and Boys Basketball teams practices to deliver Milk.IMG_3127

Between girls and boys practice in Little Falls we headed to our local library. We had a teachable moment on World Encyclopedias. Seriously, our lives revolved around an encyclopedia in my youth. I can still remember when we got a set. White and green they were. Homework was much easier when we had a set at home. It was a big deal.

Tuesday was a double header for Little Falls Girls and Boys Basketball. We had a dairy basket for both boys and girls game. I had some pretty great helpers, Jill and Anthony. Anthony kept asking where the milk was? When was it milk time?IMG_3156

Girls Basket winner and Boys Basket winner

Wednesday we made our way to Upsala for practice with the boys and girls basketball teams.


The Upsala Boys Basketball Head Coach is a dairy farmer.

And then the snow came. All activities cancelled and school closed again.


Some rescheduling and we are looking forward to week 4 of the Morrison County Milk Project.

The moment for me this week was how one single cheese stick can create an amazing conversation and a need for our community. All from one cheese stick. ONE cheese stick.

Thank you so much for the schools welcoming us with big open arms and to our sponsors! This project that started as an idea has become more than I could have imagined. Thank you, small things do matter.

KempsCobornsCentral Minnesota Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of AmericaAMPIBongards CheeseFirst District Association   


Vivian taking a break after playing in the snow. The things she teaches me.  


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