Turck family honored by U of M as Meeker County Farm Family of the Year | Local
When the Turck family of Litchfield learned that they would be honored as the 2021 Farm Family of the Year from the University of Minnesota in Meeker County, it came as a surprise.
“We thought that we are not doing anything exceptional here,” said Joan Turck. “We are just trying to be good and honest stewards of the land. It is an honor. We didn’t expect to be chosen. We do not do anything different from other farmers.
Joan and her husband, Steve, are the fourth generation of the Turck farm. In the past, the Turks raised pigs registered in Hampshire and were farmers. They also operated a dog kennel. Currently, the family grows corn, soybeans and Christmas trees, and registers land in the conservation reserve program.
The Turks started planting Christmas trees 40 years ago.
“We had a fairly sandy property, and the oats and small grains didn’t grow well there,” Joan said.
A soil and water conservator suggested growing trees on the land, which came full circle of a wish from Steve, who had hoped to grow trees when he was at FFA. He had decided not to do it at the time to avoid stepping on a neighbor’s feet.
“Instead of putting money into small grains and not making a profit from them, we decided to try Christmas trees,” Joan said.
Since then, the operation has grown into a farm of picked and cut Christmas trees. Hardwoods were added in the early 2000s. Both evergreen and deciduous trees are sold for planting. Trees take seven to ten years to reach the desired size and be felled.
In addition to growing and selling six types of Christmas trees, the family operates a seasonal gift shop and sells custom-designed balsam fir and Fraser fir wreaths. The Turks receive help from their immediate families and employees. Steve and Joan’s son Jesse, his wife, Jean and their three children provide help on a seasonal basis and whenever they can. Steve and Joan’s son, Nathan, and his wife, Jessica, and their three children help out where it’s needed.
Steve has been a coach of the Litchfield Youth Wrestling Program, a board member and past president of the Minnesota Christmas Tree Growers Association, and a long-time member of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and Pheasants Forever. Joan is a retired nurse and Litchfield Area Hospice volunteer and family church volunteer. Steve and Joan have been supporters and leaders of 4-H and the FFA. Both support the Litchfield Area Mentorship Program.
“You pick a kid and you do things with him,” Joan said. “You take them, you do things with them, you talk to them. It’s about helping young people feel good about themselves and have opportunities that they don’t normally have. It is a very good program.
There is also a Friends for Lunch program, which invites mentors to lunch with students at school on certain days of the week.
“It’s a supplement to help kids who need a little more attention and love,” Joan said.
She and Steve look forward to seeing what comes next after the COVID pandemic cuts down on volunteer opportunities.
“We just weren’t able to do things that we would do in a normal year,” Joan said.
Farming families like the Turcks were recognized in a ceremony Aug. 5 at Farmfest near Redwood Falls.
Profiles of the 2021 winners and information about the recognition event are available at z.umn.edu/farm-families-year. The Turck family was also recognized at the Meeker County Fair last weekend. Families are chosen by a committee based on their commitment to their community and to improving agriculture.
Bev Durgan, Dean of Extension at the University of Minnesota, said, “Farm families are a major driver of Minnesota’s economy and the vitality of rural Minnesota communities.