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Afton family named 2012 Washington County Farm Family

Afton residents Lori and Gary Swanson, along with their children, were named the 2012 Washington County Farm Family through the University of Minnesota Farm Family Recognition Program.

Gary and Lori Swanson's farm in Afton embodies every meaning of the term "family farm."

Gary Swanson spent his childhood on the farm, which his family bought in 1942, and he has since raised his own family there.

"I never got far in life," Gary Swanson joked about staying on the same property all his life.

The Swanson family was recently named the 2012 Washington County Farm Family through the >a href=>University of Minnesota Farm Family Recognition Program.

The Farm Family Recognition Program was started in 1980 by the University of Minnesota Extension, The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, The College of Veterinary Medicine, the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station and Farmfest as a way to honor farm families throughout Minnesota for their contributions to the agricultural industry and their local communities.

The families are selected by their peers who were previous award winners.

"It was an honor - we were surprised to receive it," Gary said. "It's very gratifying to know that they thought that much of you."

In addition to Gary and Lori Swanson, the award also honored the whole Swanson family.

The Swanson's son Travis, who lives across the street from his parents with his wife Rachel and their daughter Isabelle, works full-time as an electrician and helps his parents with the planting and harvesting in addition to operating some of his own acreage.

The Swanson's daughter Lindsey - who works as an occupational therapist - does not live on the property, but she held her wedding reception on the farm.

A lifetime of farming

The Swansons' 1,300-acre farm was started by Gary's grandfather and initially started out as a dairy farm.

The farm eventually grew to include hogs, soybean crops and corn crops.

Currently the farm continues to grow soybeans and corn and house feeder cows.

Since Gary Swanson, who previously served on Afton City Council, had grown up with the farming lifestyle, he said there wasn't ever a question of where his life was going to take him.

"I just like the lifestyle I guess," he said. "Farming was just for me."

Lori Swanson grew up in Cottage Grove, so she wasn't completely unfamiliar with the farming lifestyle.

"I was kind of brought up in the farming community in a rural setting," she said. "I knew exactly what I was getting into marrying a farmer.

"I just love the rural life and the farm life is great."

A typical year for the Swansons starts in the spring when they begin planting their crops, including herbicide and fertilizer application.

Then in the summer, the Swansons are busy preparing for the harvest.

"During the summer we're usually praying for rain," Lori Swanson said.

Gary Swanson said this year's crop is about average.

"Our crop looks pretty good right now," he said.

Fall is when the Swansons are busy harvesting their crops.

During harvesting, Gary Swanson uses a GPS field guiding system. A GPS yield monitoring and mapping system is also used for grid soil sampling for fertilizing and lime applications.

"It's just one of the newer technologies I guess," he said. "I think it's made things a lot more efficient."

On average the farm produces about 180 bushels of corn per acre and 50-55 bushels of soybeans per acre to be exported.

Wintertime is reserved for equipment maintenance and seed purchases.

Gary Swanson said he often works 15-hour days for about six weeks in the fall and spring.

The Swansons said they don't know if their children intend to continue farming the land once they no longer can, but for right now they're going to continue enjoying the farm life.

"We enjoy it that's for sure," Lori Swanson said. "I love being out here."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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