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Afton residents Lori and Gary Swanson, along with their children, were named the 2012 Washington County Farm Family. Bulletin photo by Amber Kispert-Smith

Cottage Grove native part of Washington County's Farm Family of 2012

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Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Gary and Lori Swanson's farm in Afton embodies the "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.

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

The Swanson family was named the 2012 Washington County Farm Family through the 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 previous award winners.

"We were surprised to receive it," Gary Swanson 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 Swansons' 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 planting and harvesting in addition to farming some of his own acreage.

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

The Swansons' 1,300-acre farm was started by Gary's grandfather, initially as a dairy farm. The farm eventually grew to include hogs, soybeans and corn. The Swansons continue to grow soybeans and corn and house feeder cows.

Since Gary Swanson, who previously served on the 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 and applying herbicide and fertilizers.

In the summer, the Swansons are busy preparing for the harvest.

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

Come fall, the Swansons are busy harvesting their crops. During the harvest, 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.

The winter months are 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."

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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.
(651) 702-0976
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