Suhonens honored as Carlton County’s 2011 Farm Family of the YearIt was hard not to notice 15-year-old Samantha Suhonen this year at the Carlton County Fair as she walked away from the beef show with a slew of trophies and ribbons.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
It was hard not to notice 15-year-old Samantha Suhonen this year at the Carlton County Fair as she walked away from the beef show with a slew of trophies and ribbons.
In the ring, she smiled while stroking her animal with the tip of the show stick, calming it and making sure the feet are in just the right places. Little sister Jennifer, 11, had the same dazzling smile and showed the same promise in the ring.
Mom and dad Theresa and Jeff Suhonen watched intently while, outside, brother Derek, 18, facilitated a smooth “cattle crossing” from the beef barn to the ring.
Watching them, it’s no surprise the family from rural Wright was named Carlton County’s 2011 Farm Family of the Year.
However, it was a surprise for them.
“I don’t even know how they picked us,” Theresa said. “It’s a great honor,
especially living on [Jeff’s] folks’ place where they raised nine kids. They all did chores, from milking cows to haying. Now it’s the same and different. We actually hay with his brother Roger, who lives a mile up the road; he’s the one who gave Derek his first bottle calf to take care of.”
Derek now owns eight cows and eight calves, as does his sister Samantha. They also hay with Roger’s son Brandon.
The Suhonens are among 76 families from around the state honored by their local county committees. St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties didn’t name farm families this year.
“These farm families are a major driver of Minnesota’s economy and the vitality of Minnesota’s rural communities,” said Bev Durgan, dean of University of Minnesota Extension. “The University of Minnesota is proud to recognize these farm families for their contributions to agriculture and their communities.”
One of the criteria for selecting each farm family was that they should have “demonstrated a commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture and agricultural production.”
Jeff and Theresa bought their family farm in 1988 from Jeff’s parents, Niilo and Vera Suhonen. The farm had been in the family since 1913. In the past, Jeff and Theresa have raised chickens, rabbits, pigs, horses and pygmy goats. Today they have registered and commercial Simmental beef cattle as well as registered Hampshire Sheep. They own 355 acres and have about 80 head of beef cattle.
Because Jeff works full time as a construction foreman for Northland Constructors and Theresa works part time as a postmaster relief, the kids are even more involved.
Both parents agree they can’t imagine life any other way.
“I wouldn’t have changed my childhood for anything, so I’m glad we were able to stay on the farm,” Jeff said.
When asked what they love best about growing up on a farm, all three of the Suhonen kids talk first about the animals.
“Just being able to go outside and play with the animals and look at them and stuff,” said Jennifer, who is going into sixth grade.
Sami agreed after pondering for a minute while she sat on a hay bale inside the beef barn.
“Just how you get to witness animals being born,” she said. “We’ve gotten the chance to purchase our own animals and raise them and stuff. The cow could be good or bad; you learn it’s not always going to be good.”
Derek agreed that watching animals being born and watching a calf grow into something is an amazing experience.
“I love the learning,” said Derek, who plans to double major in farm and ranch management and animal science at the University of Minnesota Crookston. “You learn how to adapt quickly — if something doesn’t work, you fix it somehow and get it done.”