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Juenkes are Farm Family of the Year

The Juenke family includes, from left, Bret and his wife Brittany with son Grady, Deb, John and Josh with wife Kristi and children Emily and Jack.

Farmington’s Juenke Farms will be recognized next month as a Minnesota Farm Family of the Year, so it makes sense that everywhere you look around the farm you see family.

John and Deb Juenke have two sons who help them farm 860 acres, and both have young children of their own who like to spend time on the farm. The grandkids love to play in the shop, or ride in the tractor, often leaving behind a trail of gummy worms and sticky fingerprints.

“We make sure we always have fruit snacks and drinks in the fridge,” John said. “It’s nice. Every time you see the kids they have a smile on their face.”

John Juenke is the third generation of his family to farm, and he’s been in the business since 1977. He raises corn and beans on 860 acres, most of which he owns. He also runs a contract finishing barn and raises some cattle of his own. He and Deb were both in 4-H growing up, and he said there was never any doubt he would take over the family farm someday. His father instilled in him a healthy respect for the land, and that never went away.

“My dad was a good steward of the land,” John said. “The thing is, they don’t make any more soil. You do the best you can to keep that soil on your land.”

A lot has changed since John took over the family farm. He grew up with dusty tractor cabs and manual everything. Now he can use satellite images to survey his fields, GPS to make the tractors plant crops in straight rows and computers to make sure the right seeds are planted in the right places.

All of that changing technology can be a lot to keep up with, but these days it’s hard to imagine doing things any other way.

“I didn’t think I’d ever go with the GPS, but when you turn that on your rows are so nice and straight,” he said. “Once you have that new automation, you never want to go back. When you’re out there 12 hours a day, it’s nice to be in an air-conditioned cab.”

Everything on the Juenke farm is done by family, and it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. The Juenkes’ son Josh owns a trucking business, but like his father before him he plans to eventually take over the family farm. Also like his father, there was never any question he would do anything else.

John said being chosen Farm Family of the Year for Dakota County was an honor. He’s not sure exactly why he was chosen, though. He doesn’t think of himself as an award-winner. He just tries to do everything the best he can.

“I’m very picky,” he said. My wife says I’m very anal about things. I like nice equipment. I like nice buildings. I just strive to get everything right.”

He also gives Deb a lot of credit for keeping things running smoothly.

“I’m lucky I have her, because she’s a good lady,” he said. “She keeps me in line.”

For everything they do, the Juenkes will be recognized along with the state’s other Farm Families of the Year Aug. 6 at Farmfest.

“Someone must think we’re doing a good job, so that feels nice,” John said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606
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