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Pequot Lakes family named Crow Wing County Farm Family of the Year

Dean and Briana Visser own the Benville Equestrian Center near Pequot Lakes and are the 2022 Crow Wing County Farm Family of the Year. Benvelle Equestrian Center provides boarding opportunities for horses as well as education for both horse and rider.

Farm family of the year
Crow Wing County Commissioner Steve Barrows presents the 2022 Crow Wing County Farm Family of the Year award to Briana and Dean Visser, who own the Benville Equestrian Center near Pequot Lakes, and their children Alexis Gerst, Ryan Visser and grandson Jaxon on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in the Birney Wilkins Memorial Garden at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Dean and Briana Visser and their children are used to horsing around.

Their hard work as owners and operators of the Benvelle Equestrian Center in Pequot Lakes earned them the 2022 Crow Wing County Farm Family of the Year award, which they received Thursday, Aug. 4, at the Crow Wing County Fair.

Eighty-five farm families and operations — the most in recent memory — were honored Thursday by the University of Minnesota at the 2022 Farm Family of the Year ceremony at the annual Minnesota Farmfest near Redwood Falls; the Vissers chose to attend the county fair.

Briana and Dean Visser
Briana and Dean Visser
Contributed / University of Minnesota Extension

“We are very excited and surprised and we feel like it's a group effort,” Briana Visser said shortly before the award presentation. “There's a lot of people at our stable that I think helped contribute to this award and a lot of family members as well.”

Dean and Briana Visser purchased 80 acres of land from her grandfather in 1992. The married couple established Benvelle Equestrian Center, naming it after her grandparents, Bennie and LaVelle Myers. The property also includes a tree farm and provided hay fields and pastureland.

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“I met Dean, my husband, at a wedding rehearsal in Ada, Minn.,” Briana Visser stated on the center’s website. “His pickup line was, ‘Hey, do you wanna see some horses?’ And as they say, the rest is history. Yes, Dean’s family had horses and ponies, too.”

Briana Visser’s grandfather, Bennie Myers, bought a pony for her, her first, and she began paying for what became the property that would become home to Benvelle Equestrian Center.

Benvelle Equestrian Center provides boarding opportunities for horses as well as education for both horse and rider. The facility includes a stable, indoor and outdoor riding arena, exercise rings, obstacle areas and many acres of wooded riding trails.

“There are four 4-H kids here at the county fair this week that have their horses boarded at our stable, and they compete in halter Western classes, English classes, gaming classes and also the 4-H drill team,” Briana Visser said before receiving a plaque from Crow Wing County Commissioner Steve Barrows.

Dean Visser oversees the boarding operation and takes care of property maintenance. Briana Visser does the bookkeeping and education programs. Daughter Alexis handles the marketing and social media, and son Ryan helps with maintenance, repairs and building projects.

The Farm Family of the Year program is sponsored by the University of Minnesota and honors families across the state who are actively engaged in farming or agricultural production, Barrows explained as he honored the Visser family during Thursday’s program.

“The Visser family is a proud sponsor of Minnesota 4-H and is active in Crow Wing County 4-H by creating a space for young people to learn through the care of working with horses,” Barrows said to those who gathered at the Birney Wilkins Memorial Garden at the fairgrounds.

Those honored cover a wide spectrum of farming, from traditional crops and livestock to community-based ventures focused on organics and traditional native foods, according to the University of Minnesota Extension website.

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“This year's Minnesota's Farm Families of the Year reflect the breadth and variety of agriculture in our state," stated Extension Dean Bev Durgan in a news release. "The University of Minnesota is proud to honor these families and their innovation and dedication to Minnesota agriculture."

The Farm Family Recognition Program has honored Minnesota farmers since 1979. It is coordinated by the University of Minnesota Extension, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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“We should remember that these county fairs are about the ag community. And a lot of times we forget that because we go eat the fried foods, we go down to the midway. … We should be very proud of these people that put their time in,” Barrows said of Dean and Briana Visser.

And it’s a lot of time the Vissers put into operating their stable.

“With the busy schedule that includes feeding, turnout, stall cleaning, sweeping the barn, training horses, teaching lessons, guiding trail rides, attending clinics and horse shows, and then feeding and doing chores again at the end of the day, days can become long and strenuous,” Briana Visser wrote at Benvelle Equestrian Center’s website.

“Although working from sunup till sundown can take its toll, at the end of the day it’s all worth it.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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