Members in Focus: Boettcher family, Isanti County
The farm in Isanti where Wayne and Lois Boettcher live is the place Wayne has called home from day one. He was born in that house with his grandmother as the midwife, the third of four children.
When he was a sophomore in high school, he decided to devote his life to agriculture. From dairying, to beef and hogs, to helping neighbors combine, to becoming a Minnesota Farmers Union Field Representative and boarding horses, he’s lived out that mission.
“I’m proud of my history,” Wayne said.
He retired as of the beginning of 2018 – here’s a look back on the ways he made a mark on agriculture and on MFU.
Wayne’s father purchased the land they farmed in 1939 and made it into a dairy operation. That was common for Isanti County at the time.
“When I was a kid, every farm place along here, this is about 120-160 acres, each of them, every single one of them was milking cows,” Wayne said. “Now there are only four left (in Isanti County).”
His role in the family farm was hauling milk to town, until his father began to have some health problems and took the job of county assessor. Wayne talked him out of selling the herd, wanting to farm himself.
“In college, I did chores in the morning, went down to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, had my first class at 8 a.m. and my last class at noon, and I drove back and forth, living at home,” Wayne said.
When his mother became pregnant and less able to help with farming, Wayne returned to the farm full-time. His father helped as much as he could.
“In the farming world, your day starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 9 or 10 p.m.,” Wayne said.
The family was milking 50 cows in 1970, when he took over completely. He had gotten married and built another house on the property, with the help of his first wife’s father and uncle. He also added pigs and beef cattle to the operation, as well as adding more acreage and help.
“My uncle (Elton)’s farm was for sale, so I asked him if he wanted to milk cows and be a partner,” he said. “We cut a deal. We had 60 cows over there. The barn would hold 35. So we had two shifts of cows. We’d let one out to feed and milk the other one, then let them back in. You always had to have the same ones out and in for the bulk of the day. We had our loafing shed, and he would switch around so that the cows that were the heaviest producers were in the barn, and the tail-enders were in the loafing shed.”
The family had a hired man on Elton’s acres. Meanwhile, Wayne had about 100 cows on his part of the property. Together, their acreage added up to about 800.
“Anything you can see from here, we were farming in those days,” he said. “We put up hay 20 miles away when we were short of feed.”
All about family
Wayne has two sons of his own, one of whom unfortunately died in a farm accident at the age of 14. His surviving son, Shane, lives nearby and works with Select Sires.
“When his brother was killed, (Shane) took it really hard,” Wayne said. “He was fighting himself.”
Shane moved to California in the late 1980’s. Wayne moved there himself in the mid-1990’s, but came back when his farm did not sell. He wasn’t actively farming any more by that point and took a job marketing dairy heifers.
Sadly, Wayne’s first wife died in 2000 from cancer. But it didn’t take long for Lois, a horse enthusiast, to come into the picture. Now her daughter, husband and three children have ten acres on the north end of their property.
The horses move in
“When we got married, our insurance was huge because of these empty buildings,” Lois said. “Kicking ideas around, a close friend of ours suggested we board horses. Never in my life had I thought that would be something I would do. My knowledge comes with horses; I’ve never been without them. I can smell a sick horse. But when it came to building our facility, that was all Wayne. He had the knowledge of all his animals, along with my knowledge, combined that has made a place of excellent care for the horses.”
The Boettchers keep horses at BMW Stables. They always have a few around and get especially busy around the time of 4-H competitions. With Wayne’s knowledge of livestock raising, they came up with an automatic feeding system for the horses that made sure they all got equal amounts. They built stalls with buckets of feed attached to them.
“According to the Minnesota Horse Council, we are the only ones in the state who do it like this,” Lois said.
‘Farmers Union was good to me’
Wayne’s family was strongly involved in the cooperative model. His father was on the Midland Co-op Board, the Isanti Creamery Co-op Board and the Isanti Mill Co-op Board. His uncle Elton was more involved with MFU and invited him to a meeting. Wayne was elected Isanti County President at that meeting in the 1980s.
“They were looking for younger members, which we do today,” he said. “I felt indestructible and figured the sky’s the limit.”
It was 2002 when then-Membership Director Ron Hauglie invited him to join the MFU Outreach Staff.
“I never looked back once I got hired,” Wayne said. “I wouldn’t do it any other way if I could.”
Wayne worked on membership in the northeast part of the state. He said his favorite memory of MFU was getting to know other agriculturally-minded people at the State Fair or trade shows, especially those from other fields than him.
“I’ve figured out that I know a little bit about chickens and pigs and sheep and ducks and cattle and dairy and beef and buffalo and horses, so I can talk almost intelligently with anybody that’s doing any kind of farming,” he said.
To both Wayne and Lois, MFU is a family they cherish getting together with.
“Every time we have done something with the Farmers Union group, there’s always laughter and warmth,” Lois said.
“Farmers Union was good to me,” Wayne said. “But it’s time to veer off and let the herd run. They’ve got a good plan.”