Veldhuizens receive Minnesota Pork Producers Association Family of the Year honor
EDGERTON -- In the center of Chris and Clare Veldhuizen's kitchen -- like in many homes -- is their table, surrounded by chairs that have held children, relatives and friends for years. Generations have eaten daily meals there. The Veldhuizens have built a legacy that was left to them by Chris' parents and grandparents, and they will leave the legacy to their children and grandchildren.
In recognition of their success, the Veldhuizens were recently awarded the Minnesota Pork Producers Family of the Year award at the Minnesota Pork Congress in Minneapolis.
While it wasn't like an average work day, "it was a good trip, it was enjoyable and it was a good Pork Congress," Clare said of the convention where the Veldhuizens received the award.
"It was a good thing for us to see and experience," Chris added.
Chris and Clare, who married in 1975, are quick to point out, however, that the success of the farm and hog operation is a result of the effort of the generations that came before them.
The family farm was established by Chris' grandfather, Christian, who emigrated from Europe in the early 1900s and borrowed the money for his passage to the United States.
At the time, all immigrants that passed through Ellis Island were given a stamp by the United States government indicating the likelihood of their success in this country.
After being released from quarantine because of a brother who was blind, Chris' grandfather received a "Pauper" stamp before he boarded a train to Edgerton.
"Through hard work and blessings from God and good stewardship, it's not that way today," Clare said, referring to the pauper stamp. "We are very thankful, and that's why we don't feel like we deserve all the credit -- because back then, they started all of this."
As a child, Chris remembers working with his grandfather, who gave all he had to his children, and taught Chris the importance of preparing a better life for the next generation.
"That's where the emphasis on family and supporting each other and doing things to help other family members succeed -- that's where this comes from," Clare explained.
The family farm, which used to have a strong dairy component, grew its swine production in the 1980s after the government dairy buyout.
The Veldhuizens built their first hog building in 1982. In 1991, they were invited to attend an informational meeting about The Pipestone System, a new swine organization being formed in the Pipestone area.
The Pipestone System pools the resources of local pork producers, sharing the costs of high-end genetics and farrowing facilities to improve the quality of pork produced.
The Veldhuizens became one of the first shareholders in the system.
"We own the sow, and we are investors in the unit, but we purchase the isoweans that come out of that unit," Clare explained of their current operation, which produces more than 25,000 hogs annually.
As they were growing up, Chris and Clare's four children were actively involved in the farm, spending countless hours in the hog barns and lending their hands to the work of their father and grandfather.
Each of Chris and Clare's children developed a love of farming and, as adults, they are all pursuing careers in agriculture.
That's one of the strengths of this generation, Chris said. Everyone has their strengths and interests that contribute to the farm.
In December, to help their children and future grandchildren, Chris and Clare gave the farm to their children, who will jointly run the business.
"It was sacrifice so the next generation could continue on," Clare said, speaking of Chris' parents and grandparents. "That's the heritage that we want to continue and that's our purpose in life."
To support the four children who are now managing the farm, the Veldhuizens are once again expanding their operation and adding more buildings.
"They are as dedicated as any kids are," Chris said.
Chris' parents, children and grandchildren all help on the farm today, and Chris and Clare consider themselves blessed to see them all working together.
"We have four generations running around the yard. How many people can say that?" Chris asked.
In addition to their hog operation, the family manages 2,400 acres of crop ground, allowing them to grow enough corn to feed their hogs and using the ample amounts of manure produced to fertilize their fields.
"We're almost a closed system," Chris said.
Chris and Clare are active in sharing what they have learning about the hog industry with neighbors and new farmers.
"I'm very involved in giving advice to hog producers, just because I've been doing it for so long," Chris said.
The Veldhuizens are also active members of the Christian Reformed Church in Pipestone, where they have taught Sunday School and been in leadership positions for years.
Chris and Clare have experienced a life of blessings, and they remember daily the heritage that came before them. They feel blessed to be close to their family and to be a link in the chain of creating a better life for their children.
"I don't need anymore, what more do I want?" asked Chris.
"And now we're blessed to see our grandchildren running around here, too," Clare added.