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Bredahl carries on family conservation tradition

Randy Bredahl washes his 1984 International tractor behind his house. Bredahl, who farms 235 acres in the town of Clifton, has been named the county's Outstanding Conservation Farmer and was recognized at the annual banquet sponsored by the Ellsworth Lions Club and Pierce County Land Conservation Department April 17. Bill Kirk photo

Signs of being conservation-minded are evident around Randy Bredahl's farm.

There have been such signs at the farm along County Road FF in the town of Clifton for a long time. One of the dams at the place dates back to 1936, said Bredahl, who was named this year's Outstanding Conservation Farmer by the Ellsworth Lions Club and Pierce County Land Conservation Department.

"My dad had a conservation plan," he said, referring to the late Raymond Bredahl. He took over his family's farming operation in 1976 from his father and late mother, Lorraine; he has a sister, Carol, now in Minneapolis, and three brothers, Darwin and Wayne in River Falls, and Larry in Minneapolis.

Since that original dam was built, he's had five more installed, he said, the latest added three years ago. They help with drainage off of dry runs to the nearby Kinnikinnic River.

Bredahl said he's carried on a family tradition by working with the Soil Conservation Service. He rotates crops, presently having 50 acres in corn, 30 in soybeans, 60 in alfalfa and 12 in oats. He also has about 50 acres of his cropland in contour strips. He uses chisel plowing and mow board.

Like his dad, he milks Holsteins, but Brown Swiss as well, a total of 50 cows with 50 young stock, he said. His milk goes to the Ellsworth Co-op Creamery and he ships his animals to Zumbrota or Cannon Falls, Minn. The farm's main barn, onto which an addition was constructed in 1979, contains 32 stanchions.

"I milk out of the pens, too," he said, noting there are geese and a few chickens for eggs on his acreage.

Besides a 1984 International tractor, farm equipment includes a kick baler, Bredahl said. He hires high school and college students for assistance, and they work year-around on the milking, haying and other chores.

All but a separate 30 acres of his land are connected at the farmstead, he said.

The worst year for weather was 1988, when a severe drought claimed area crops -- "There was hardly any hay," he recalled. Another difficult year came more recently, when a large spring hailstorm damaged not only his ground, but many roofs in the city of River Falls.

The Outstanding Conservation Farmer said he's avoided pests, aside from some bugs in his hay, and his herd has stayed relatively healthy. He relies on Veterinarians Frank During of Ellsworth and Tim Ingle of Hammond.

He's endured high prices for fuel and fertilizer, which have lately come down somewhat, and typically pays $200 per bag for seed, he said. The price per hundredweight he's received for his milk has ranged from $8 to $20 over his years in farming, with $10 being common.

"At times, you're doing it just for fun," he joked.

So far this spring, the honoree has kept busy hauling manure and has planted oats, he said. When he's not farming, he enjoys collecting old tractors (mainly Internationals and Minneapolis Molines), going to concerts like one recently performed by Charlie Pride in Red Wing, Minn., and visiting friends.

The River Falls High School graduate said he was in the Army from 1971 to '73. Upon his return here from military service, he was employed at 3M in Cottage Grove, Minn. The job involved running chemicals; he couldn't imagine doing that long-term and turned to the farm when his father retired.

Bredahl planned to attend the annual Lions and land conservation department banquet in Ellsworth April 17. He was visited by the award committee and expected to receive a plaque, though hadn't yet made specific arrangements to display it.

"It's nicer to have my name in the paper for this than for a speeding ticket," he said with a laugh.