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Retired farm couple earns honorary life award

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 01/19/2014 8:12 PM

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ROCHESTER, Minn. — A retired Wabasha County farm couple were honored with Honorary Life Membership in the Minnesota Farm Bureau at the organization's annual meeting in November.

George and LaVonne Hermann married in 1948 and became Farm Bureau members the same year. George's parents were members of the organization, and he was a member while he farmed with them before his marriage.

Through the years, the couple donated many hours to Farm Bureau. George, 88, served as a unit chairman — a unit was a township, he explained — and county vice president and president. Unit meetings were held in homes, LaVonne said. When the unit meetings ceased, county meetings were held in Wabasha and later Millville and Plainview.

LaVonne, 83, was involved in the women's committee.

She remembered making scrapbooks and posters that went on to win awards at the state level.

She participated in baking contests at the county level and thinks she even won one. There also were style shows where she made outfits for her daughters and herself.

George said the highlights of his Farm Bureau involvement were his trips to Washington, D.C., and a trip to a national Farm Bureau meeting in St. Louis. LaVonne and son Dave stayed home to do the milking when he went to St. Louis, he said.

It was during his first trip to Washington that he came to understand why it's difficult to get things done at the national level. The Minnesota Farm Bureau delegation was there to lobby for higher commodity prices, and the Pennsylvania delegation wanted lower commodity prices.

The couple's involvement in Farm Bureau has decreased in recent years, but they still attend county annual banquets. George, who inherited an interest in politics from his mother and grandfather, always enjoyed the September meetings where resolutions were drafted.

One night, there was resolution after resolution, he said. "We weren't out of there until 2 a.m."

He can't remember what the specific issues were but remembers it was at the time high-line wires were going up in western Minnesota.

The Wabasha County Farm Bureau board asked the couple to fill out an application for the honorary award, George said.

"We've got to send them a thank-you, Dad," LaVonne said.

"It's a great honor. We appreciate it very much," George said.

In his nomination, Wabasha County Farm Bureau president Darvey Sloan wrote, "Their many years of Farm Bureau involvement have brought the Wabasha County Farm Bureau where it is today. Many hours over the years have been devoted to agriculture, community and especially Farm Bureau."

George and LaVonne farmed near the South Troy Wesleyan Church in rural Zumbro Falls. Their land was in Wabasha County, but it bumped up against the Olmsted County line, LaVonne said.

They raised corn, soybeans, hay and hogs and milked cows. In their later years on the farm, they focused on crops and their dairy herd.

They retired and sold the farm in the early 1990s. Since then, they have lived in Rochester.

Both attended high school in Rochester, but they met at the Wesleyan Church. LaVonne was working as a nurse's aide at the time and staying with a family in the area who went to the South Troy Wesleyan Church. They married shortly after she graduated from high school.

Together, they raised five children: Don, Dave, Ranetta, Retha and Rhonda. When the youngest was in sixth grade, LaVonne returned to work off the farm. She had a 30-year career as a nurse's aide and home health assistant. She would work the 3 to 11 p.m. shift, waking early to make sure the children had a hearty breakfast before school. George was there when they got home from school.

"It was a good place to raise the kids on the farm. ... They all learned how to work," George said.

The couple celebrated 65 years of marriage in July. Their family has grown to include 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.