By Kerry Drager
Raising awareness to the importance of the agricultural industry has been a lifelong goal for JoAnne and John Lahr of Sauk Centre. For their commitment towards education and the 4-H program, the Lahrs have been named Stearns County Farm Family of the Year.
The Lahr farm has been in the family since 1948. John purchased it from his father in 1979. The farm has 240 acres with 185 acres of crop land.
Now retired, John ran a milking operation with 45 dairy cows and raised steers for a few years after he sold the milking herd.
For six years, JoAnne was a member of the Stearns County Extension Committee. With other committee members, she played an important role in helping the county run more smoothly. By becoming involved on a county level, the Lahrs have promoted agriculture and how it affects entire communities.
“There are people in Sauk Centre that don’t know what we do out here in the country,” said JoAnne. “If agriculture dies and fades away, (Sauk Centre) will also fade away. There won’t be a community anymore.”
The couple has extensively promoted the 4-H program. They have raised four children; Tambera, Brent, Emily and Nick. Three of their children chose to be actively involved in 4-H, and participated in the Dairy Bowl and Dairy Judging for the county and state fairs.
Aside from dairy, the children also learned about politics through 4-H by touring Washington, D.C., as part of the Citizenship Washington Focus event.
The Lahrs chose to home-school their children. They feel that 4-H was an amazing resource that helped get their kids involved in the community. The program also teaches important skills that may not be offered at schools such as politics and home economics.
The Lahrs are now partially retired but do remain active in the community. John is currently the secretary of the Knights of Columbus and JoAnne is a member of the Stearns County Holstein Club. They have also taken part in helping the world understand agriculture and its technological advances by hosting six foreign exchange students throughout the years.
“One of them was from Panama. They still milk cows by hand there. We made him a video so he could take it back and show his family what a milking machine looked like and how it was done here,” said John.
Last year, they hosted Maurice Asiga, a teacher from Kenya, who wanted to learn more about American agriculture. Asiga works for an orphanage that takes care of children who have lost their parents to AIDS. Their society grows all their food locally, so Asiga came to the United States so he could gather some information about technology and how to make better use of their agricultural land.
“Asiga is one of the directors at the orphanage. Our parish sponsors fundraisers for them. The orphanage wanted to learn about our community and our agriculture. The more they can grow food, the better they can help the orphans.”
John and JoAnne have a deep understanding of agriculture and a desire to spread their knowledge to not only their community but societies around the world. They believe in protecting the future of agriculture and want to ensure a better future for children raised in the county.
Their accomplishments and sacrifices have earned them Stearns County Farm Family of the Year.