The Chervestads are lucky to have dedicated part-time employees who work making hay, who’ve been with them a long time. One is a pastor who worked with Kory in the 1980s, when things were looking bleak for agriculture.
“He said he was thinking of going into ministry,” Kory said. “We didn’t stop him and told him we’d support him. Now he’s preaching in Erskine and lives on his family’s home place. So he works with us part-time again. He knows what to do.”
The Chervestads have stayed close as a family throughout their generations. Aaron’s two sisters, Abby and Angie, live nearby in Gary and Red Lake Falls, respectively. Their other sister lives in their hearts.
“We had four children,” Kory said. “But we lost a daughter in 1994 in a homecoming parade accident. She was on a float with her classmates in Oklee.”
Carol worked in town until 2008.
“I worked at the hospital in Thief River Falls about 21 years, then I took my civil service test and got hired by the Postal Service,” she said. “I worked part-time in Oklee, then got to be the officer in charge in Bejou for six years, then transferred to St. Hilaire.”
(A fun fact about Carol – she is the first cousin of Red Lake County President Steve Linder, who farms just a few miles away from Hay Day.)
Meanwhile, Aaron’s wife Jill is a paralegal at the Ihle, Sparby and Haase Law Firm in Thief River Falls. She’s worked there for more than 20 years after getting her degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead (formerly Moorhead State). She and Aaron have two children: Owen, 12, and Alexa, 10. Aaron has a degree in ag industry sales and management from the University of Minnesota-Crookston.
‘Don’t miss the Farmers Union meeting!’
Kory remembers going to Farmers Union meetings ever since he was small.
“They used to go to meetings every week,” he said. “Everyone was involved.”
People would tell each other it was okay to miss church on Sunday morning, but not to miss the Farmers Union meetings. At their local, they’d discuss similar things to what our members deal with now – low prices for their products.
The Chervestads are still stalwarts at Farmers Union meetings and conventions. Kory is the Pennington County President. And they still are troubled by low prices.
“[The trade wars] have really put a crimp in things,” Aaron said. “We go to different meetings and some say that the tariffs aren’t the true reason the prices have crashed. Well, it certainly hasn’t helped matters any. And those ethanol waivers have been bad too. The president could do something about those, but he’s chosen not to.”
Sitting on the Board of Directors of the Red Lake Electric Cooperative, Aaron’s privy to the disparities in rural broadband access. Though their area has good internet through Garden Valley Telephone, they’re among the lucky ones.
“You sit in these meetings and look at a map of Minnesota, and we’re a red bullseye in the middle of nothing.”
MFU is working to extend that bullseye of coverage, in part by supporting full funding for the Border-to-Border Grants.
“That’s how Garden Valley got started [with fiber broadband], through grants,” Carol said.
In 2016, Aaron and Jill decided to take a step forward in leading for family farmers by joining the Farmers Union Enterprises (FUE) Leadership Couples program, with couples also from Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.
“We weren’t sure what we were getting into at first, but we got really comfortable fast,” Aaron said. “Harley and Irene Danielson did a fantastic job. We had a lot of differences but at the end of the day, we’re all trying to raise kids and make the farm work.
“The biggest thing I learned was how important Farmers Union Industries (FUI) is. The reason we stepped into those businesses was that people couldn’t make money at them, but we still need the services. It was the same cooperative principles that started our grain elevators and electric and telephone.”
And maybe that’ll extend to broadband too, eventually.
Making it through
How have the Chervestads hung in there?
“Faith,” Carol was quick to answer. “Communication.”
They value being able to talk about the issues they’re dealing with, even though it’s hard. And they can rely on experience to know it’s not the end of the world.
“The 80s were not good for us with all the rain,” Carol said. “We made it through that.”
Trying new things, such as beef cattle and fescue grass, have kept things interesting at Hay Day Farms too. But they have each other, no matter what.
“The family is a big part of it,” Aaron said.