It could have been a scene in a Norman Rockwell painting.
The Dalmatian dog, Deets, with its tail wagging watched as children Ben, Veronica and Maggie boarded a Brainerd school bus Thursday morning at the dairy farm of Ron and Barb Nelson south of Brainerd.
When asked about the scene, Ron Nelson said, "That's why we (are dairy farmers). It's a fantastic privilege for me to see that every day. Not every dad or parent can do that."
The couple, whose parents both were dairy farmers near their present farm, bought the farm in 1984.
Ben, 11, brought water to the chicken coop for his 30 chickens.
They have seven children -- Magnus, 17, Nick, 15, Maggie, 14, Ben, 11, Veronica, 5, John Paul, 1 1/2 and Simon who was born Sept. 13.
Farming has allowed Ron the opportunity to spend more time at home with his children.
Barb works as an accountant at Larson Motor Service in Little Falls.
"Kids like being around us and we like being around them," Ron said.
Barb listened as Ron (left) talked with Nick and Magnus as Veronica and Ben (not pictured) ate breakfast after the chores were completed. Ron said very rarely does his entire family miss being able to sit down and eat a meal together.
But being around kids full time wasn't a guarantee for the couple. Both earned college degrees. Ron, a 1980 Brainerd High School graduate, earned a college degree in agricultural economics and animal science. And Barb, a 1982 Brainerd High School graduate, earned an accounting degree.
Ron, who had several non-farm related job offers upon graduation, admitted that he always wanted to farm. So when he got a chance he didn't hesitate.
"I wanted to farm and I knew if I didn't try it then that I probably never would," he said at the kitchen table before sunrise Thursday morning eating cereal, bacon and scrambled eggs.
Now their farm consists of 120 acres, about 60 head of Holstein cattle, 13 goats, two pigs and about 30 chickens.
Ron fed his son, John Paul, some cereal after the rest of the family ate breakfast.
Barb said when the couple were dating, she said she could remember that Ron kept talking about becoming a dairy farmer upon graduation from college.
"I remember laughing at the time because I wasn't sure if he was serious or not but it kind of hurt his feelings," she said. "So I knew then that he was serious and if I stayed with him that we'd probably end up on a farm and that was fine."
"I think its a great place to raise kids, it's a way of life," she continued. "It's a lot of work but I think there are so many other benefits that you get from it."
The Nelson children are active in a variety of organizations.
Nick, 15, stopped often to scoop out silage as he fed some of the family's Holstein cattle Thursday morning.
The four eldest are members of the Daggett Brook 4-H Club; Magnus, Nick and Maggie are members of the Brainerd FFA Chapter; Maggie is a Crow Wing County Junior Dairy Princess; and the four eldest also are active in school band.
Maggie also sells goat milk to a few outlets including the Wild and Free Game Farm in Garrison to feed orphaned fawns and she is hoping to pasteurize it and possibly make cheese.
The children also are learning how to manage money. They sell bedding plants and vegetables from the farm's three greenhouses. In fact, the Nelsons grew 43 different vegetables last summer.
The four eldest also are learning teamwork. Ron does most of the morning chores but they do the evening chores, freeing him up to do other activities like field work.
He said the children do not do the morning chores because he feels school "comes first." He wants them to have ample sleep so they can concentrate.
As Ron said, "I know I am very blessed to have a rural setting for our kids to live in."
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