Legislators present 2017 update
By Ed DuBois
A legislative update in Buffalo was started with some interesting news related to the Super Bowl. State Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake) said a change in cell phone service involves an increase from 4G service to 5G, which she said is "about 100 times faster."
The upgrade is coming because the 2018 Super Bowl will be in the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, O'Neill explained.
The legislative update was hosted by the Wright County Economic Development Partnership and the Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce at lunchtime on Thursday, June 29 at Huikko's Bowling & Entertainment Center in Buffalo. Besides Rep. O'Neill, State Senator Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo) and State Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) presented information, and State Rep. Joe McDonald (R-Delano) arrived later and added to the event.
O'Neill talked about some major energy reforms, which should reduce business costs, she said. Xcel Energy is getting rid of a biomass program because of its high cost, and more attention is going to wind energy, which is not as costly. The change is expected to save around $700 million for ratepayers, O'Neill mentioned.
All the legislators talked about the $46 billion state budget that was approved recently. O'Neill said close to $700 million is going "back to you." Meanwhile, significant amounts are going into a transportation package, K-12 education, Health and Human Services, and public safety.
Lucero said the funding for transportation is a huge victory. Out of the transportation package, $350 million is going to the Corridors of Commerce, which includes I-94, and he is excited about extending the addition of lanes from Rogers to St. Michael. The next step is to add lanes from St. Michael to Albertville.
Sen. Anderson said the $46 billion budget was outside his wildest dreams. He was hoping it would be much lower.
Rep. McDonald mentioned that when he was initially elected in 2010, the state budget was $34 billion. He feels the budget has been growing too fast, and efforts have been underway to make the budget efficient.
In regard to transportation, he said the new state budget is providing $3.2 million more for Wright County.
He talked about education and said putting more money into education is not necessarily going to result in better outcomes. To illustrate his point, he said Delano has better outcomes than the metro area, but the metro area gets far more money per pupil than Delano.
He is happy about a tax cut for families, and he is also pleased that senior citizens will no longer have to pay a Minnesota tax on their Social Security benefits.
Additionally, he mentioned a bigger market value deduction for commercial buildings, a tax credit for child care, a student loan credit, and state assistance with school levy property taxes on farmland.
He commented that the legislative session is over, but the legislators and the governor are still in a boxing match. Gov. Mark Dayton was unhappy with some of the legislation that was passed. He has vetoed funding for the Legislature to persuade the legislators to renegotiate some parts of the legislation. The legislators say it is unconstitutional to not fund the Legislature and have filed a lawsuit against the governor.
The matter could go all the way to the State Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the taxpayers are paying the legal fees.
O'Neill pointed out the State Attorney General declined the take the case, which does not reflect well on the merits of the governor's position.
Another matter going to the State Supreme Court is a suit by the State Auditor against a new law that allows counties to hired private accounting firms to perform annual audits. The State Auditor says the new law diminishes her office. Wright County is one of three counties named as defendants in the case.
Rep. Lucero said he authored legislation to help the three counties with their legal fees, but it was not allowed by the governor in an omnibus bill, Lucero said.
He also talked about changing the minimum wage at the local level. He said minimum wage decisions belong at the state level. If every city chooses their own minimum wage, there could be a hodgepodge of minimum wages and a bad business environment, he said.
O'Neill said businesses that operate in several cities could face a nightmarish task of figuring out hours and wages in each city.
Sen. Anderson said 2017 has been a dramatic year in the Senate. The Republicans have never before had four years of control in the Senate, and they are tickled by it, he commented.
He mentioned it was tough for the new majority to stay on schedule and finish legislation on time. It was frustrating when Gov. Dayton vetoed ten omnibus bills at the end of the session.
Lucero mentioned the grand opening of the newly refurbished State Capitol is taking place Aug. 11-13. He welcomed everyone to come and see the building. It is beautiful and very impressive, he said.
Overwhelming emojis brighten Fourth of July lake parade
An overboard display of emojis helped the Lotthammer family claim the top trophy in the 2017 Lake Pulaski Boat and Pontoon Parade on the Fourth of July. A vast number of watercraft and families showed up for the annual event on a sunny, warm Tuesday, July 4 afternoon. See more photos inside this week's issue of the Journal-Press. (Photos by Ed DuBois)
Bob Halagan begins term as Rotary District Governor
By Ed DuBois
Bob Halagan, a local attorney and a former school board member, is beginning a one-year term as a Rotary District Governor.
He has been a Buffalo Rotarian since 2001 and was the Buffalo Rotary President in 2009-10. The district, Rotary 5950, serves Central Minnesota, Western Minnesota and Minneapolis.
Halagan was sworn in on June 21 at Rush Creek Golf Course in Maple Grove, Minn. The outgoing District Governor is Mark Hegstrom from the Edina Rotary Club.
Halagan is the first District Governor from Buffalo since John Halvorson in 1998-99. The Buffalo Rotary Club includes 65 members.
Halagan said he enjoys the variety of people in the organization. Rotary International has 1.2 million members, he said. The organization is about "people in action and making a difference," he stated.
One of his goals as District Governor is to increase the number of women and millennials in Rotary.
"I would like the Rotary membership to be 50.3 percent women. That's the percentage of women in Minnesota," Halagan said.
Two other goals are to increase awareness about opioid addiction and abuse, as well as to increase awareness about human trafficking. With the Super Bowl coming to Minnesota, efforts are underway to address and prevent human trafficking because it involves many victims, he explained.
While serving as president of the Buffalo Rotary, Halagan was impressed by the many projects that were undertaken by Rotarians.
Many meaningful projects have been taking place in Guatemala, where the women remind him of his own mother.
"My mom was a farm girl in Czechoslovakia. She had no running water and no electricity," Halagan said.
"I got to live the American dream. I went to college, and I had my own business," he continued. "My father died when I was very young."
"The women in Guatemala are like my mother, and the Rotary projects have changed their lives in very meaningful ways," he stated.
Halagan goes to Guatemala many times a year. He is impressed how "people from wealthy countries reach out and engage their passion in ways that makes us better human beings."
Halagan concluded by saying Buffalo Rotary is a classic community club. Any time there is a need, Rotarians are looking to get involved.
All people are welcome to join the club. They only need to have a sense of service.
Free nitrate testing for your water being offered at Wright County Fair
Not all Minnesotans know the quality of the water they drink. If you own a private well, it is up to you to test your water quality.
Routine testing can prevent serious health problems.
One of the compounds the Minnesota Department of Health recommends testing for on a regular basis is nitrate, which is dangerous for infants and pregnant women. Concentrations over 10 parts per million can cause birth defects and even death of infants, according to the Wright Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).
Nitrate comes from fertilizers, animal waste and septic systems.
Getting your well tested is easy. The Wright SWCD is offering free nitrate testing at the Wright County Fair from July 26 through July 30. Bring a one-cup sample from your well to the Wright SWCD booth in Building 2 for onsite results. For best results, run the tap for 2-5 minutes prior to collecting the sample in a clean plastic/glass container or Ziploc bag; if possible, keep your sample cool until testing.
If you have any questions, please contact Alicia O'Hare, Wright SWCD water resource specialist, at 763-682-1933, ext. 3 or email firstname.lastname@example.org dnet.net.
Man from Buffalo dies following three-vehicle crash on June 24
A three-vehicle crash occurred Saturday, June 24 at 5409 20th Ave. NE in Buffalo Township around 10:30 a.m. One of four people transported from the scene to the hospital passed away on July 2.
According to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Vincent DeMars, 72, of Buffalo was injured in the crash and died July 2 due to his injuries.
Following the crash, the road was closed for a while as individuals were transported and the crash scene was cleaned up.
DeMars passed away at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.
A Memorial Mass of Christian Burial is taking place on Saturday, July 8 at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Waverly at 11 a.m. Visitation is from 9-10:45 a.m. on Saturday also at the church. Private inurnment is planned at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis. The Peterson Chapel, Buffalo is serving the family.
Celebrations take to the streets in Annandale and Delano
Fourth of July celebrations in Wright County traditionally include huge parades in Annandale and Delano. In this photo from the 2017 Annandale parade, a group called Da Band performs. After 25 years of entertaining parade spectators around the area, Da Band performed one last time in Annandale on July 4. Da Band retired after the parade. See more parade photos inside this week's issue of the Journal-Press. (Photos by Doug Voerding)
Farm Family of the Year
Willard Kreitlow, daughter, Marienne Kreitlow, and her husband, Jerry Ford, honored for conservation practices and exploring a crop that is new in this area
By Ed DuBois
The 2017 Wright County Farm Family of the Year is probably not what you would call a typical recipient of the honor. However, Willard Kreitlow, his daughter, Marienne Kreitlow, and her husband, Jerry Ford, are representative of changes in this part of the state. People are adapting as a gradual shift takes place from traditional dairy farming to a variety of agricultural activities on smaller farms.
Ford expressed an appreciation for the Wright County Extension's willingness to recognize the expanding types of farming taking place in the county by presenting the Farm Family of the Year Award to the Kreitlow-Ford farm.
"I was taken aback. We are not a typical farm family. We have no kids here," he commented.
Texas college instructor
Originally from South Carolina, Jerry said his dad was a minister. Most of Jerry's adult life was spent in Texas, where he worked in theatrical design and teaching. He has two degrees from the University of Houston, and he taught lighting and sound 23 years, he said. Jerry still freelances a little, including some work with the Buffalo Community Theater.
Jerry met Marienne at a folk music festival in Kerrville, Texas. For many years, Marienne was a professional singer and songwriter, and she remains involved with music and the arts to this day.
"I heard her perform, and I wanted to meet her," Jerry recalled.
He managed to get to know her when she joined a conversation Jerry was having with another person. After a while, Jerry asked to book Marienne for performances at the college where he taught.
"On the third day she was at the college, I asked her to marry me," Jerry said with a big smile.
Fell in love with the farm
Jerry started visiting the Kreitlow farm in Minnesota. He said he fell in love with the farm.
"I hadn't been in Minnesota at all. My first visit was during a very cold winter, and I loved it!" Jerry declared.
He asked Willard for his daughter's hand. Jerry and Marienne were married in 2002.
Willard joked that he never traveled as far as Jerry. Willard was born in a farmhouse about 94 feet from his present home. At 94 years old, he said he moved about a foot a year.
He was just kidding, of course. Actually, he traveled a long way during a People to People agricultural exchange trip to Sweden, Poland, Russia, and Switzerland in about 1971.
Willard is a third-generation farmer. The homestead was established by his grandparents, August and Pauline Kreitlow. His parents were William and Esther Kreitlow.
Willard had a brother who lived on the North Shore near Grand Marais, and that's where Jerry and Marienne were married. The occasion was both happy and sad. At the time, Marienne's mother, Dorothy, was very ill with Parkinson's disease. She passed away two years later.
Back at the farm, fundamental conservation practices remained the same, whether it was corn and soybeans in the fields or organic garlic and potatoes, Jerry mentioned.
They worked cooperatively with a neighbor, Kevin Stokes and his wife, Kelly, who rent some of the Kreitlow-Ford land.
"Kevin has carried on the farm practices he learned long ago from Willard," Jerry said.
Some of those farm practices include terracing, contouring and buffers. Willard said he started using conservation practices on the farm in 1944. He is well known for his involvement with conservation.
Willard had experienced the Dust Bowl period in the 1930s, and it made an impression on him. He became a champion of conservation practices and was much involved with the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) 43 years. He was on the Wright County Parks Board (now called Parks Commission) 42 years (from 1960 to 2002).
Jerry commented that conservation stewardship has helped enhance the diversity of wildlife in the county.
One unfortunate aspect of enhanced wildlife is that you cannot choose the types of wildlife that show up.
"We lost some pastured chickens to coyotes," Jerry said.
Several different types of chickens live harmoniously in an area on the farm and produce brown eggs.
The roosters include a Rhode Island Red (King Richard), a Lacewing Wyandotte (Gustav), and an Austorlorp (Simian). The hen breeds include: White Rock, Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, Autralorp, Lacewing Wyandotte, and Buff Orpington.
Jerry mentioned the chickens have grass in their diet, and the nutrients from the grass make the yoke of the eggs a little more orange than the eggs you can buy at the store. The added nutrients are good for you, he said.
Marienne enjoys watching the animals on the farm. She says they are very entertaining.
Their beef cattle are a mixture of Scottish Highlanders, Texas Longhorns, Herefords, and Pinzgauers. They are all crossed to produce calves, which Jerry calls 'my babies."
He is impressed with those who perform the artificial inseminations on the farm.
"We are located between really rural farms and smaller farms. The breeding service is excellent," Jerry said.
He added, "We have found our niche."
Heifer boarding school
About nine head of cattle is the ideal herd size for the farm.
"We could not do it without Kevin Stokes and farming cooperatively with him," Jerry commented.
"He sends his heifers over here to our 'boarding school.' When they fall in love and pay the consequences, they go back to Kevin," Jerry said.
The Kreitlow-Ford farm has large pastures, which are managed through a process called rotational grazing. Light electric fence lines can be set up relatively fast to keep the cattle in a particular section of pasture.
"We move the cattle a lot to small spaces. It's good for conservation ... and for the pastures," Jerry said.
After a section is used, it is given time to recover.
Jerry mentioned the hooves of the cattle soften the soil and improves it.
Tipped over water tank
Marienne recalled an entertaining episode in the pasture a while ago. She noticed a water tank was on its side, and she asked Jerry, "Is that water tank supposed to be on its side?"
Jerry investigated and discovered one of the large animals had tipped the tank, which weighs close to 800 pounds when holding water, onto its side. It was tipped once, and then it was tipped again. Apparently, the tank was being used as a back scratcher.
"I put the tank up against a fencepost to solve the problem," Jerry said.
Accidental garlic farming
He was asked how they decided to grow garlic on the farm, and he said it happened by accident.
Marienne had a friend who suggested growing garlic and then selling it in the Twin Cities. After some discussion, some garlic seeds were ordered from a supplier in Wisconsin and planted in the fall. Jerry said the planting was done all wrong, but plants came up anyway the following spring.
They had two varieties from the original seed stock, and now they have three varieties. They chose varieties that are among the best and hardiest. They are originally from Siberia and are a northern crop.
Jerry said a grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is being used by the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) to promote and research garlic growing.
"It's a great extra crop, especially on a small farm, for an extra income stream ... plus, it's fun," he said.
Jerry and Marienne helped get the Minnesota Garlic Festival going. During the first three years, the event took place at the Wright County Fairgrounds in Howard Lake. Now in its 12th year, the Minnesota Garlic Festival takes place at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. The 2017 event is on Aug. 12.
Jerry helps provide education about garlic by writing "The Stinking News" online for the SFA. He also writes a tongue-in-cheek edition called "Stinky Leaks."
Jerry became involved with the SFA after Willard recommended it. Willard was an SFA member 27 years.
Sustainable farming is a philosophy, Jerry said, and it has three components. One, it involves working toward environmental stewardship in harmony with nature. Two, it involves community and being a vital part of it and also being supported by it. Three, it involves profitability and economic resilience, "while loving what you do."
"The SFA is not against stuff," Jerry mentioned. "We like to do farming this way, and if others like it, welcome aboard."
Using cover crops rather than plowing is a good example of sustainable farming.
"It's good for the air, water, soil ... and the bottom line," Jerry said.
Marienne enjoys her husband's love of farming and the fact they are both living with her dad on his farm. She said the Farm Family of the Year honor is a fortunate circumstance after moving back home with her dad and marrying a college instructor.
She had lived on the East Coast when her professional music career was developing. Today, she continues to enjoy music. She has performed often at the Buffalo United Methodist Church in the Saturday Awakenings series.
Lately, Marienne has been working on a musical called "Yours, Thrognog." Her uncle in Grand Marais, Burton Kreitlow, had a nickname, Thrognog, and the musical is based on letters he wrote to his future wife while he served in North Africa and Italy as an aircraft mechanic during World War II. A first reading of the musical took place recently, and a second reading is scheduled on Aug. 6 in St. Paul. A third reading is planned at Western Illinois University.
Marienne picked an abundance of strawberries in the garden while Jerry was showing a visitor from the newspaper the chickens in their enclosure and the cattle in a section of pasture. Evening light was reflecting off many well-established tree stands, as well as off the pasture grass of the rolling Middleville Township countryside. Tatanya, a border collie, was leading the way.
The surroundings were familiar. They are similar to countless other farms in this part of the world.
But those who own and operate the Kreitlow-Ford farm are not quite as typical as most Farm Family of the Year recipients. You won't find a huge herd of Holsteins. You won't see automated milking machines. No young sons and daughters will be helping with the chores.
What you will find is a love for the land, for the animals and for a stewardship Willard started way back in 1944.