By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
The third and fourth generations of the Brinkman family are now producing milk on the family farm, although their main focus is on athletics.
Marc Brinkman’s grandfather bought their farm near Grey Eagle in the 1940s, and Marc grew up here. Marc, who is the seventh of 12 children, was in the Army when his dad let him know more help was needed on the farm.
After returning to the farm, Marc married Julie and they started a family.
The Brinkmans milk about 40 cows, and raise soybeans, corn and alfalfa.
The kids have always helped in the summers, especially with picking rock and baling hay.
Eldest son Justin helped with a lot of the chores, but when he was gone to college for a year, the girls had to take turns milking, doing chores and feeding calves.
“When I was growing up, we had to help on the farm and were not in any activities at school,” Marc said. “I wanted things to be different for my kids.”
Justin started football in fourth grade and wrestling in fifth. But it was when he was in sixth grade that his mom twisted his arm to play tennis.
“And that turned into my most favorite sport ever,” he said. Now the whole family plays tennis.
Then came Hailey and gymnastics. “When I was about three years old, I remember watching the Olympics on TV, wearing my swimsuit and windsuit,” she said. “I mimicked what I saw, and was doing somersaults and flips off the couch.”
When she was in first grade, her high-school-age neighbor taught her cartwheels and front and back walkovers.
Hailey, now a senior, joined the Melrose elementary gymnastics program during the summers and between third and sixth grade, she practiced in St. Cloud with a club team.
Jailyn, a sophomore, is a gymnast, too. “Everything looked so easy when Hailey did it,” she said.
Mady, a seventh grader, beat both of her sisters when she got a 9.35 on the beam in Brainerd in December 2011.
“I joined the Melrose team in seventh grade and was on the varsity the very first year,” Hailey said.
In eighth grade she broke her foot one week before the conference meet, so she just competed on the bars, taking seventh place.
She won sections in ninth grade and took third in the state on the vault.
She grew exceptionally fast between seventh and 10th grade, and did not compete in 10th because doctors were afraid she would tear something.
In 11th grade she took third in everything. And on the track team that year, she placed third at state in the triple jump. “It was the year of threes,” she said.
This year, the Melrose gymnastics team took first at state, and Hailey placed first on bars, beam, floor and the all-around. Jailyn placed second on bars, and sixth in the all-around.
Both Hailey and Jailyn made the all-state elite team, with Hailey placing first and Jailyn second. It was the first time sisters have both placed in the top five in Minnesota gymnastics history.
So when Marc found he needed to sell a cow, his daughters saw an opportunity to put the extra funds to good use.
They wrote a note to their parents: “Dear Mommy and Daddy, your loving daughters worked so hard to make you proud and bring home the gold! It would be soooo awesome if we could get these things… 1. new trampoline! 2. hot tub! 3. insanity workout!”
That hasn’t been ruled out, Marc said, laughing.
Hailey is also looking forward to next year, when she will run Division I track for the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. “I already know who my roommate will be,” she said.
It isn’t only the Brinkman offspring who are active in sports. Marc bowls, and both he and Julie play volleyball in Burtrum during summers and in Sauk Centre, Long Prairie and Albany during winters.
Brinkman Dairy is located on the shores of Little Birch Lake. “We have the best of both worlds,” said Julie. “We’re on a farm and at the lake.”
The Brinkmans’ driveway is the public access for cabins along the lake, and at times there is heavy traffic moving past the front of their barn.
People often drop by to visit the cows during their time at the lake. Julie said the family takes that pretty much in stride.
And actually, “I consider us to be ambassadors for farming life,” she said.