FORT RIPLEY -- Working on a farm is all that Leonard Koering knows.
Koering, 63, Fort Ripley, has farmed since he was 10 years old and he does not plan to stop until he is physically unable to handle the work.
Koering, along with his wife, Carleen, were selected as Crow Wing County Farm Family of the Year 2002.
Leonard Koering grew up on a farm and when his father hurt his back he and his brother, Clarence, had to milk 15 cows every day.
"We took everything in stride," he said. "They were long days. ... It kept us out of trouble."
Koering married Carleen, who was originally from the Twin Cities area, in 1959. The couple met at the old Sleepy Hollow Dance Hall. Carleen Koering's aunt and uncle owned the dance hall and she would stay with her relatives during the summer.
"It was a culture shock," she said about getting into the farming business.
The Koerings have six sons and three daughters who helped with farm work as children. The third oldest, Steve Koering, is the only child today who farms. The other children, however, do help when needed and a majority of them still live in the county.
"I have always loved the cattle," said Steve Koering, who began milking cows at age 10.
He lives in a house about 300 feet from his parents.
"He is the third generation living there," said Leonard Koering.
The house was built by Leonard's father. Leonard and Carleen Koering lived in the home until 1989 when they built their current home.
The Koerings own almost 600 acres where 70 dairy cows, 10 beef cattle and 70 young stock roam. They also rent 250 acres where they grow hay, corn and oats and some is pasture land.
The Koerings used to raise pigs, chickens and a few horses.
About 5:30 a.m., Leonard Koering goes out to the barn and milks and feeds the cows and cleans up and is back in the house for breakfast by 7:30 a.m. In the afternoon Koering cuts wood. His home and his son's home are heated by an adjoining wood stove. They also harvest oak and poplar logs for timber.
Then by 6 p.m. it is back in the barn to milk and feed the cows again and to put the animals to bed for the night.
Carleen Koering also helps feed the animals and cleans the barn.
The Koerings are working on becoming certified in organic farming. With organic farming, no chemicals are used on the fields and no drugs are given to the animals.
The Koerings never gave shots to the animals and don't use chemicals, but they have to go through a lot of paperwork to become certified.
"The future is organic," said Leonard Koering. "You get healthier soil and food."
Once the Koerings become certified they will get a third more money for the milk they sell. Last year, the Koerings received between $9 to $16/hundred pounds for the milk they sold.
"It's hard to take," said Carleen Koering of the rocky prices. "You can't budget anything."
"It's like if your boss took out 25 percent of your check that you get and you didn't plan for it," said Leonard Koering.
The Koerings have to pay, in advance, about $150 each month to have the milk transported.
The Koerings market all their products to the National Farm Organization. They have been NFO members since 1964.
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