Morris family picked as Stevens County Farm Family of the Year
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 08/21/2013 7:48 AM
MORRIS — Dick and Suzanne Smith, of Morris, read the letter from the University of Minnesota several times.
They just couldn't believe the news.
The Smiths were picked the 2013 Stevens County Farm Family of the Year. They joined 75 other Minnesotans from across the state in receiving the honor.
"We just never thought it would be us," Dick said. "You get so involved in your day-to-day that you don't think you are doing anything different than anyone else."
Livestock — sheep, cattle and poultry — plays a key role.
The Smiths raise 100 or more ducks, hatching the eggs in incubators, growing them to market weight then processing them at TFC Poultry in Ashby.
They raise 500 broilers annually. The Smiths also have a few guinea hens and turkeys.
Then, there's the livestock.
They have 90 sows in a farrow-to-finish hog operation and 1,500 finishers each year.
They raise 10 to 12 Holstein calves to market weight and sell 30 to 35 market lambs each year at the Albany Sales Barn.
They also sell direct to customers with enough kept for the Smith Family's needs.
"I kind of go by Old MacDonald," Dick said. "The kids used to say we have everything but a horse."
Besides their livestock, the Smiths have 850 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.
While Dick focuses on livestock, Suzanne cares for the lawn, flowers and large garden. Until her retirement last spring, Suzanne was an elementary school teacher. Her 36 year career was mostly spent at the Morris Area Schools.
The centerpiece of the farm is the 103-year-old hip-roof barn. It was built using post-and-beam construction with wood pegs. Dick converted the one-time horse barn into a farrowing barn.
"I thought I could fix it up cheaper than to build a new hog barn," he said. "And I like the looks of the old barn. ... When you come into the yard, it's the first thing people see."
Dick, who grew up just four miles from the farm, purchased it in 1976. His father had pigs, so starting his own herd was natural. As it grew, he added different species to the mix.
The NDSU ag economics grad worked six years for a local cooperative. In 1981, he started a custom spraying business that he ran for nine years before farming full-time.
Day cares and school groups have toured their farm. Dick often brought baby pigs and lambs to Suzanne's classes and talked about the farm.
Suzanne serves on the Stevens County Fair Board, a position she's had for the last 10 to 12 years.
The couple has three children — Eric, Nathan and Becky — and two grandchildren. Their son, Nathan, works in Morris and has his own 50-acre farm and helps the Smiths. He'd like to take over the hog operation one day, Dick said.