2012-09-13 / Front Page

Mertens dedicated to farm

By Mark Anderson,
News Editor

It is not an easy life running the family farm, but for Nick Mertens, it is the only way to raise his kids. Mertens is currently running the dairy farm northwest of Staples with his wife Darcy, following in the footsteps of his parents Creig and Ione and his grandparents Roy and Lois Mertens.

Because of their passion and commitment to the farm, the Mertens were named the Farm Family of the Year for Wadena County by the University of Minnesota Extension for 2012.

As an example of what it’s like growing up on the farm, Nick told about how he gave his two sons, Landon, eight, and Axel, six, the task of taking care of the youngest calves in the herd this summer. He sent them out to do it on their own with no instructions.

“They spent two days dinking around,” said Nick. And he really didn’t care whether they came up with an efficient system or not, it was all about developing their connection with the farm. “Their little minds were just a-working,” he said, “they used their imagination and a little work ethic,” and came up with a system.

Ione said the love of farming was instilled in all her sons at an early age. She remembers when Nick was allowed to ride on the tractor at age 18 months, and he cried when they made him get out of the cab. That dynamic plays out again for the next generation as 17 month old Roxy likes to spend time in the machine shop with her dad.

Running the farm requires a lot of daily planning. Nick now works the farm’s 160 acres and milks 95 holstien cows. He breeds his own stock to produce genetic traits like strong legs and high udders. He produces all his own feedstuff so he has to rent more acres to produce enough corn and hay. Since taking over the operation in 2005, Nick has diversified into other avenues. He is starting a herd of beef cows and his latest innovation was to add sugar to the irrigation system, which kills harmful aphids and is good for beneficial insects.

It is a self sufficient operation with nearly everything done right on the farm. But Nick still gets plenty of help from the family. Creig never really left after Nick took over, he and Ione built a house two miles away but they still take care of the steers on the farm. Creig also keeps a lot of the machinery going, including the 1981 Allis Chalmers tractor they still use.

Other members of the family help out in different ways. All three of Creig and Ione’s sons, Nick, Luke and Ben, started out as carpenters. Nick decided to get back into farming and Luke and Ben still help out.

Nick’s wife Darcy, besides being a mother raising three kids and running a salon and spa, works on the farm, raises a garden and does the yard work.

Ben recently got married and moved nearby. His wife Kaylynn was also raised on a farm and is already doing a lot on the Mertens family farm.

Other family members often visit the farm so they can see the cows and cousins .

With all the different tasks to do on the farm it seems like a hectic schedule, but things calm down in the cattle barn as the contented cows calmly chew their cud while listening to country music.

When Nick was considering taking over the farm in 2005, he said they crunched the numbers and knew there wasn’t a lot of money in it. But he went ahead because it was more about being together as a family.

“It’s a commitment to God and family and business, in that order,” said Nick.

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