Farm Horizons, Oct. 2018

Vinkemeiers of NYA named 2018 Carver Co. Farm Family of the Year

By Starrla Cray

Seven C Dairy is a fitting name for the farm of Jeff and Christina “Tina” Vinkemeier in Norwood Young America.

It was originally chosen because of the seven people in the family whose names start with “C.” Coincidentally, the farm also has all seven breeds of US dairy cows, and it’s moving toward the seventh generation of family ownership.

The Vinkemeiers homesteaded the property in 1859, and Jeff and Tina took over in 1997 as the sixth generation. Now, their 19-year-old son, Collin, is studying dairy management at Ridgewater College in Willmar with plans to continue the family tradition someday.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” Collin said. “I couldn’t work in an office job or inside anywhere.”

Jeff feels the same way, and said the rewards of farming motivate him to keep improving.

“The part I like is, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it,” he said. “You get rewarded for your hard work.”

Contributions in Carver County

Seven C Dairy was recently chosen as the 2018 Carver County Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota Extension. The program honors farm families from throughout the state for their contributions to the agriculture industry and their local communities.

The Vinkemeiers are members of several dairy breed organizations, and they have a long history of involvement in dairy promotion activities and 4-H.

“Basically, anything with 4-H and dairy, we’re there,” Jeff said.

All six children have shown and judged dairy cattle for 4-H, and Jeff has coached dairy judging for the past six or seven years. Jeff joked that “an overgrown 4-H project” is the reason they have all seven breeds of dairy cows.

The family also leases animals to other 4-H participants, in order to give more kids a chance to learn about dairy. For this arrangement, the cows and calves usually live on the Vinkemeier farm, and participants go there to get the animals ready for showing.

Two of Jeff and Tina’s children – Courtney, 27, and Caleb, 19 – took their love of farming to Oregon last summer. Courtney and her husband, David, farm about 40 acres with Caleb, raising an assortment of animals.

Jeff and Tina’s second-oldest daughter, Carley, 21, has also branched out in agriculture, having graduated late last year from Northeast Iowa Community College with a degree in dairy science and ag business. In 2015, Carley served as a Carver County Dairy Princess and was selected as a finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

The two youngest Vinkemeier children, 16-year-old Canton and 14-year-old Cadee, stay busy with school and farm chores.

“I enjoy being outside working with animals,” Cadee said.

Upgrades and efficiency

When Jeff and Tina took over the farm, the family was milking 45 cows in a tie-stall barn. A year later, they installed a double-four, step-up parlor. Since then, they’ve upgraded to a 73-head free stall barn and added a calf/heifer barn.

The Vinkemeiers currently milk 150 cows twice a day, employing a few high school students part time. Having the parlor has been a big time-saver, according to Jeff.

“It’s so much more labor efficient,” he said.

Jeff said the most challenging part of farming is “the economics,” because “the margins keep getting smaller.” He added that it’s important to manage costs well in order to make a profit.

The financial aspect of farming is a topic Collin has been studying at college. He’s also been able to visit farms, and see what has worked well for them.

“We’ve toured over 75 farms already,” he said, adding that Ridgewater College has one “big” trip a year, either to California or Colorado.

Jeff also went to college before taking over the family farm years ago.

“At that time, there was a one-year dairy program in Hutchinson,” he said.

Tina is active in the dairy industry, too. She was on the American Dairy Association board in the past, and is now a coordinator for the Carver County Dairy Ambassador program. On the farm, she takes care of the bookkeeping and purebred dairy registration. During the day, she is employed as assistant treasurer for Sibley County.

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