Kenneth and Hope Johnson, of Poplar Township in the western part of Cass County, are modest about being recognized as the 2020 Cass County Farm Family of the Year.
“It is an honor,” Hope said. “I don't know if I should say this, but my husband and I didn't really feel we were qualified to be selected as Farm Family of the Year.”
The Johnsons used to rent farm space in the community near their families, but they have been on the same farm for the past 41 years. They liked to call it “Hardwood Acres,” though Hope said it was never registered. The draw to farming started long before Hope and Kenneth.
“I guess it's just in our blood,” Hope said. “My husband and I were both raised on farms right in this community. He loves taking care of animals and stuff, and I've always liked farming too. I like to garden besides farming, but I've helped with everything we've done on the farm and most of the kids liked doing farm work too.”
Hope and Kenneth had a big family to help out and it's only gotten bigger.
“We have eight children,” Hope said. “They're all grown and married. We have 18 grandchildren. Some of them are married and have kids too. We have 21 great-grandchildren.”
When the farm was most active they raised cattle and sheep.
“We had 150 or so sheep ewe flock and I think we had in the 20s for beef cattle,” Hope said.
Despite their modesty, Hope and Kenneth are well known in their community. Kenneth was a Cass County commissioner and worked closely with two sheep organizations. Both also served on the local town board, led 4-H groups and supported local Future Farmers of America chapters.
“We've gotten some nice comments form people, so that's nice. It was a good experience for our kids growing up. I think it was a good place for them to grow up and learn to work and deal with things," Hope said.
The University of Minnesota Extension Service's Farm Family of the Year program works to recognize families who have demonstrated a commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture in their communities.