Members in Focus: Biel family, Fillmore County
Just a couple miles north of the Iowa border is a family dairy farm, Biel Dairy, which supports three generations of Biels. Including one princess.
The Biel farm family members, consisting of grandparents Eunice and Bob; son Kevin and daughter-in-law Kelly; and grandchildren Kayla, Kelsey, Krissy, Klaudia, Kenny, Kora and Klara, all pitch in to make the 200-cow milking process run smoothly. Kayla is the princess, the Fillmore County Dairy Princess, to be exact. Eunice, who goes by Eunie, is a longtime leader in Minnesota Farmers Union, too.
Always been members
The farmland, which is about 10 miles west of Harmony in southeast Minnesota, was purchased by Bob’s grandparents in 1936, during the Great Depression. Bob grew up there, and Eunie on her family’s dairy farm three miles away. Neither can remember when their families weren’t involved with MFU.
“My dad was Fillmore County Farmers Union President, and my mom attended one of the first Ladies’ Fly-ins back in the 1960s,” Eunie said.
Now she follows in his footsteps as county president and a frequent participant in National Farmers Union Legislative Fly-ins. She’s also Chair of the MFU Executive Committee.
“I love the grassroots involvement of Farmers Union, how we work for better Farm Bill policies and things like that,” Eunie said.
The family cited health insurance costs as one of the most important MFU policy topics to them, as well as the need to simplify the process for transitioning farms to the next generation.
As far as dairy policy goes, they know well the struggles that many Minnesota family dairies are facing. Kevin said he thought a quota system could help with the price crisis.
“A lot of people don’t like it, though,” he said with a chuckle.
Eunie said that a quota system would provide some assurance to farmers so they can know what they’re getting for a price.
“The problem is with the way we have volatility, the prices are low longer than they’re high. You’ll have six months of high prices and two years of low prices, so you’re always playing catch-up,” she said.
While it remains to be seen how the dairy crisis will be solved, know that MFU is always open to hearing from members on how we can help.
In Kayla’s words, she’s not the only regal one on the Biel farm.
“Our animals are treated like royalty,” she said. “We care for our animals and make sure they’re content.”
It’s pretty commonly known among agriculturalists that dairy farming is incredibly hard work. As Fillmore County Dairy Princess, Kayla wants to make that truth known to more people and share the goodness of dairy products.
“So far I’ve gone on a few classroom visits and I’ve gotten to read to first graders,” she said. “I’ve also attended the Minnesota May Event with other county dairy princesses from Minnesota, where they chose the finalists for Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Coming up I have a few parades and malt stand events, and I’ll visit some care centers. Plus Fillmore County Dairy Night on the Farm on June 16 in Preston.”
Kayla is the oldest of the seven grandchildren. She’s graduating from Fillmore Central High School, where’s she’s been chapter president of the school’s FFA, and will head to South Dakota State University to study dairy production and pre-veterinary.
Sister Kelsey is this year’s chapter president and will soon become an officer for Region VIII, and sister Krissy is the Junior Vice President for the chapter. All of the children are in 4-H, showing dairy cattle, and help on the farm as they can.
One thing the Biels consider unique about their farm is that they raise all of their young stock on their land, including steers.
“Some people sell their bull calves when they’re born,” Eunie said. “We keep them and raise them up as fat steers, so that’s a little extra income for us.”
The family sells milk to Associated Milk Producers, Inc.’s Rochester plant, where it mostly goes to cheese production. Some of AMPI’s milk is sent to the Kemps plant to be sold as fluid milk, so consumers who purchase it are for sure getting milk from Midwest dairy farmers.
The Biels plant about 1,400 acres of crops, a mixture of land they own and rent, all within a 5-mile radius over three townships.
“We’ve got 300 acres of hay, 700 of corn and the rest is soybeans,” said Kevin. Like many Minnesota farmers, he got slightly delayed in planting because of the late winter and rains, but said he was done with corn.
The farm is in a unique place geographically, on the edge of the hilly Driftless Area, but near the prairie of south central Minnesota.
“It’s kind of the glacier edge here, just go west a ways and it’s flat,” Kevin said.
They are close enough to Rochester, Austin, La Crosse, Wis., and Decorah, Iowa to drive there reasonably quickly.
“It’s a good rural community,” Kevin said.
Celebrate Dairy Month
What’s the best way to commemorate June Dairy Month, according to Kelsey?
“Drink as much milk as possible, eat a lot of ice cream and enjoy string cheese!”
Eunice added, “We need to support our Midwest Dairy Association, too. They do a service by promoting dairy products.”
The family did their part by having a malt stand at Kayla’s graduation party. Kevin and Kelly are members of the American Dairy Association as well as MFU, and Eunie submits resolutions to the AMPI board. She said the resolutions AMPI gets are similar to those presented at MFU state conventions.
The Biel family is just one of our many family dairy farmers in our organization. We thank all dairy farmers for their hard work and will continue to fight for them.