The Baker family of Cleveland was recognized last week, named Le Sueur County’s 2020 Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota.
The Baker family farm began in 1950 in rural Cleveland, when Jim and Marge Baker purchased 80 acres. The couple milked a small herd of dairy cows and raised 11 children. In 1983, two of their sons, Ken and Mark, returned to the farm. In 1988, after their parents’ passing, Ken and Mark purchased the farm and years later added a farrow-to-finish hog operation while continuing to milk cows. In 1994, Ken and Mark built MNDAK Dairy and milked 1,000 cows three times a day. They sold the dairy six years later.
The Baker farm presently consists of beef cattle and a cropping operation. In addition, the Bakers run a custom crop farming business for area dairy farmers. Ken and Mark operate the farm as a team. Ken oversees the cattle operation as well as combining in the fall. Mark handles the farm’s finances and takes care of planting in the spring. Ken and Heidi have three grown daughters, Kyndra, Bridget and Brianna. The sisters all participated in 4-H in their youth. Heidi works as a State Farm Insurance agent in Le Center and Mark’s wife, Marilyn, works for Consolidated Communications in Mankato.
The common thread to the farm has always been family helping with whatever is needed: brothers, nephews, spouses, or daughters helping in any way they can.
For many years Ken and Mark have supported 4-H. They are currently helping nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces, in addition to other 4-H members, with various livestock projects.
Ken and Heidi served on the Le Sueur 4-H Ribbon Auction Committee for many years. Heidi also served for 12 years as the local Cleveland Pioneers 4-H Club leader.
Though COVID-19 has forced cancellation of the annual Minnesota Farmfest, where the awards are presented each August, this year’s honorees were celebrated in an online video tribute lead by University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel on Aug. 6.
Honored families are chosen, one per county, by local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to their communities and to enhancing and supporting agriculture.
“We’ll miss the face-to-face ceremony for the 2020 Farm Families of the Year, but nothing diminishes pride we take in celebrating their accomplishments,” said Extension Dean Bev Durgan. “These families represent the best in agriculture. They’re innovative and dedicated to their communities; they are stewards of the land.”
A complete list of the 2020 Farm Families of the Year will be available at mnfarmfamilies.CFAMS.umn.edu.
Along with Farmfest, University units sponsoring the recognition event include University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.