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Couples program inspires couple to be more active in Farmers Union

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 12/12/2013 12:55 PM

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MINNEAPOLIS — An Ogilvie couple wrapped up their Farmers Union Enterprise Couples' Program with a report to the convention on Nov. 24.

Peter and Stacy Ripka started the program in July 2012, but it was months before that when they received a phone call from Minnesota Farmers Union president Doug Peterson.

The call came out of the blue, the couple said.

They were hesitant to commit at first, Stacy said. The program would take them away from their family, their farm and volunteer activities. They considered if they could add one more thing.

Yet, it was also an honor to be selected for the program, which is an effort to empower future leaders in Farmers Union.

Participants from five states — Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota and Montana — are selected by their state presidents. They are chosen for their commitment to and participation in Farmers Union.

Peter grew up in Farmers Union. His father and grandfather were both presidents of the Kanabec County Farmers Union.

"I married into it," Stacy said.

The couple has been active in the organization for15 years, Peter said.

They accepted Peterson's invitation to learn more about Farmers Union and in July 2012 went to Medora, N.D., for their first meeting. They were the only dairy farmers in their group of 10. The couple from Wisconsin raises organic beef and vegetables. The Montana couple operates a Community Supported Agriculture and raise free-range hogs. The South Dakota couple runs a beef ranch and the North Dakota couple raises beef, corn, soybeans and small grains.

They attended meetings in Bloomington; Springfield, Mass.; Montana and Washington, D.C.

Each session included training, speeches and social time, Stacy said. They also learned from the other couples. Their daughter, who came with to the last seminar, hit it off with a daughter of another couple and they continue to stay in touch.

It was a great experience, Stacy said. She appreciates that it was a couples training program as both advocate for agriculture.

The couple has hosted Sen. Al Franken on their farm, tidying up their farm between wheat harvest and third-crop hay. Franken toured their calf barn, free-stall barn and parlor, Peter said.

They've went to Farmers Union lobby days and both have been interviewed by KSTP TV Channel 5 on issues related to agriculture. Peter spoke on immigration and Stacy spoke about child labor laws. Stacy's interview was on their farm; Peter's was at the state Capitol during a lobby day. They did a newspaper interview with a Star Tribune reporter while in Washington in September during the Farmers Union fly in.

"It's an honor to be able to tell your story and for somebody to be interested in your story," Stacy said.

Farmers Union wants them to continue to step up for agriculture, she said.

They will continue to serve as spokespeople, Peter said. Their training also inspired him to run to be a delegate to the National Farmers Union convention. He was one of five delegates elected to represent Minnesota Farmers Union.

The Ripkas milk 200 Holsteins and raise wheat, hay, corn and soybeans. In addition, Peter is on the board of Midwest Dairy Association and Stacy serves on the Ogilvie School Board. They have four children.