Heger Family Farms weclomes Visitors
by Maxine Herr
Katie Heger was a city girl, raised in Minneapolis, Minn., with no connection to the agricultural community. Now, she grows corn, soybeans, peas and wheat and raises chickens, pigs, goats and five children on her husband Steven’s third-generation family farm near Underwood. The move to the farm was an “eye-opening experience,” she says, but one she’s certainly embraced.
“I never really thought about how much energy, time and planning it takes to run a farm as a business,” she says. “We don’t just farm for ourselves by raising a few animals and a small plot of land to provide for our own family. Agriculture is a business and has to be run as one or it isn’t sustainable.”
When Katie traded big city lights for the soft glow of prairie sunsets, she poured herself into farming. But her passion for agriculture is spilling over to the entire state. Katie puts out the welcome mat for tourists, legislators and school students to connect them to agriculture. With the average American at least three generations removed from the farm, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, Katie is using her farm to attract consumers back to their food source.
“The (N.D.) Department of Tourism contacted us to do some farm visits on buses for those going up to Norsk Høstfest,” she says. “That’s how it started – to explain what we do on our farm, let them walk around, and talk about equipment.”
But she didn’t stop there. With her education background, Katie decided to advocate for agriculture through her own farm.
“There is a lot of information coming out that consumers want to know about their food products and their fuel or fiber,” she says. “A good way to start that conversation was to have a few events where people could visit our farm, meet a real farmer and ask some of those questions.”
In conjunction with the Year of the Pulse Crops, the Hegers have planned a Peafest event in June to allow people to learn more about pulse crops. The Hegers will plant green peas around the farm for picking and sampling, and there will be hands-on activities for children, along with food sample giveaways.
“We’ll provide recipes because peas and beans are very nutritious, but people don’t always know what to do with them,” Katie says.
In late August, Katie has a similar event planned to highlight their corn crop, which will include a sweet corn picking event with a freewill offering. All the money donated at the Hegers’ events go to their local community’s food pantry. On Aug. 13, a 5-K trail will weave through the family farm and surrounding land for visitors to do a Harvest Hike. The walk/run will give participants information about products grown within McLean County as the route takes them through several fields with a variety of crops.
“We do these events and are willing to host people because it’s important for the history and culture of agriculture in North Dakota,” Katie says. “I look at it as an opportunity to enhance the future of agriculture – whether it be through upcoming legislation, or just individuals valuing it as a whole within the state.”
Admission to the 5-K walk/run is $10 and half of the proceeds are given to a community organization. “We do this to share our message and to support our community, strengthening it as a whole,” Katie says.
All of the events’ dates and times will be listed on the Heger Family Farms Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hegerfamilyfarmstours. In addition, Katie is willing to take reservations for schools or other individuals seeking a farm visit. “If they want to contact us and we’re available, we’ll make time to share what we do,” she said.
Their farm is served by McLean Electric Cooperative, Garrison.
Maxine Herr is a freelance writer from Bismarck.