Farwell Farmer Says Regenerative Agriculture Is a ‘Big Deal’ – Alexandria Echo Press
FARWELL — Kelly Anderson has worked for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture since 2009. She’s worked in a few different areas, but is currently a pasture and livestock specialist.
“I’m passionate about what cattle can do in conservation and I love seeing how cows can help improve soil, improve grasslands and more,” said Anderson, a 1996 Alexandria graduate who lives on a farm near Farwell with her husband, Bill, and their two children, Jack and Lily. “I really hope we can do more by incorporating livestock into some of our cropland to really help boost soil fertility. It’s a whole movement, regenerative agriculture, and it’s a big deal.
Didn’t grow up on a farm
Anderson didn’t always have a passion for the farming industry, although she did always have a passion for animals.
She grew up on the eastern shore of Lake Ida. She always wanted a horse and always begged her mother and father to buy her one. One summer, she saved up enough money and rode her bike to Arrowwood Resort so she could take riding lessons at the stables. She also had a cousin who had a horse and spent time riding at her house. And every summer, she spent a week at her grandparents’ farm.
Anderson now owns three horses – two purebred horses, Kaycee and Akadia, and Alpo, his Arabian.
After high school, Anderson went to college to study biology with a pre-medical and physiological focus. His original plan was to go to medical school. But after four years of college, she decided medical school wasn’t what she wanted, so she started looking for a job. But then she met her husband who grew up on a farm two miles from where they now live.
“He was milking cows and I spent most of the summer coming here and helping out,” Anderson said. “I really started to like him – and love him – and we decided to get married. I learned very quickly about farming.
And now it’s her passion and a way of life she loves.
Graduating from college with a liberal arts degree in biology and moving to the “southern suburb of Farwell,” Anderson did not find many job opportunities in his field. She bounced around a bit to do different jobs, but then landed a job in Douglas County as a feedlot attendant and that’s where her farming career really began.
Although she now works full-time for the MDA, Anderson works as much as possible on their beef cattle farm. Most of her work with the MDA is done from home, unless she is in the field or at another agricultural site. Her favorite part of her job is when she works with farmers to use cows to help manage public lands.
“Because we’re in a prairie or what was once a native prairie, in order to keep things nice and healthy, it requires regular disturbance,” she said. “And that was done historically by fire or by grazing. So I help with the grazing part.
Her work with MDA is a passion because she 100% believes that livestock and conservation go hand in hand.
But her work at home on the farm is also a passion. She loves her animals and she loves the interaction of livestock on their land.
She and her husband operate a cow-calf operation and own close to 150 beef cattle on their farm.
It’s the biggest operation they’ve had – about twice what they normally have. Her husband recently retired from working for the railroad and now has more time to spend on the farm, she said.
“Farming can be tough, but it’s so rewarding,” she said. “I mean every day you’re faced with decisions that are literally life or death.”
She said they had a cow that had a calf about six weeks ago and they didn’t find it right away. By the time her husband found it, he said the calf had about a 1% chance of survival. But they did everything to help him survive. Unfortunately, it is not the case. But she said at least they tried everything they could do for it.
Shortly after, they had a similar situation and the calf survived.
“The only difference is that he was born on an 80 degree day and the other was born on a 20 degree day,” she said.
She said the calf was named Hero Guy even though it was a girl and quickly became a favorite of her husband.
“She’s a girl but she identifies as a hero. We’re all inclusive here,” she said. “Hero Guy is a big, big heifer now.”
When asked if there was anything she wanted people to know about farming, Anderson said cows sometimes get a bad rap and are often used as scapegoats.
“I encourage people to take a closer look at what farmers have done to improve over the years and how much more efficient we’ve become at producing beef,” Anderson said. “If you want to do a meatless Monday, that’s fine. But the impact you have is far less than that trip you took to the restaurant to have this meatless Monday. I do not know a single farmer who does not give everything for his cattle, especially for his cattle. You’re dealing with life or death and the death part sucks, until it’s planned and the steak is on your plate.
And if you want to know her favorite cut of meat, it’s beef brisket, although she said she also likes a good skirt steak.