Hayes family honored as 2018 Nicollet County Farm Family of the Year

Farm, family and community have been Tom and Patti Hayes’ way of life.

They were also named Nicollet County Farm Family of the Year.

The farm

The farm in rural Lafayette was started in 1906 by Claus August Hed. When Tom was young, his family raised chicken, beef, hogs and sheep. The farm had also had dairy cows before that. Besides the corn for local markets and ethanol plant and the soybeans for seed they raise now, the farm has raised alfalfa, small grains and sugar beets.

Tom’s father, Amos, was from Clarissa. He went to the university and became an agricultural instructor in Winthrop. When he married Tom’s mother, Leona Pierson, he walked into “his opportunity to farm,” Tom said.

Tom was the fourth child of five in his family; he had three older sisters and one younger brother. He went to University of Minnesota, Waseca, to study diversified agriculture. He said he was going to transfer to the St. Paul campus, but “never got there.” Instead, his family needed him home to work on the farm.

Patti grew up on a farm about five miles south of Mankato. They met through mutual friends from Tom’s college days.

“This is very rural, so at first it was very different,” she said. But the farm’s solitude on a road just southwest of Bernadotte, grew on her.



Tom completed the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program in 2006-08, which includes leadership, personal skill-building and location education in regional, national and international study sessions. During his class, the participants visited South Africa.

He was on the steering committee that started Connecting Nicollet County. He’s a Lafayette Area Lions, inthe New Ulm Farm-City Hub Club, a board member of the New Ulm Area Foundation, and a board member of the Brown County Rural Electric Association, which serves Brown and Nicollet counties.

“Being involved in the community has always been something ingrained in me,” Tom said.

Patti is active in church activities, the Lafayette Band and is a past 4-H adult leader for the Bernadotte 4-H Club.

“4-Hers talk through their project with a judge, which makes children comfortable with adults and presenting in front of people,” Patti said, which is one of her favorite aspects of the program.

Family life

Tom and Patti raised four children on the farm, where local community, church and 4-H involvement was a constant. Son David, a mechanical engineer, and wife Micaela live in Wisconsin; daughter Anna is working on a doctorate in food science at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana; son John is preparing for the priesthood, and son Daniel is at the University of Minnesota completing a degree in agricultural fields, including animal science and agronomy. He has an internship with WinField United, a subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, this summer. Daniel has shown interest in returning to run the farm.

“They’re all pursuing what they planned on right from high school,” Patti said. They’re proud of all of them for finding fields that fit their personalities and passions.

David, Anna, John and Daniel were active on the farm and highly involved local 4-H, starting at age five, and FFA programs with livestock and non-livestock projects.

“They were very interested in the animal projects,” Patti said. “They had great experiences and friendships from 4-H.”

When their children were all at home, they would camp a few times each summer, visiting state parks. Invariably, they’d camp at the state fair, too.

“Now, I’m just very happy when we’re all together,” Patti said.

After more than 40 years in a hog enterprise, that dissolved last year, leaving just corn and soybeans for now. Tom said the challenges for agriculture are the cost of inputs and the amount of debt farms must carry.

“You don’t buy new, you get by with less,” he said. “Technology has become a big part of agriculture, but all that has cost.”

Technology gives farmers more data to be better farmers, making more precise applications of seed and fertilizer, for example, Tom said.

Each year, the University of Minnesota recognizes more than 80 families through the Farm Family of the Year program.

“The farm families receiving this year’s honors exemplify what makes Minnesota agriculture strong,” said Bev Durgan, Dean of Extension, in a news release. “They bring innovation, science and hard work to farming. They care greatly about the land and animals and delivering quality products to consumers worldwide.”

In Nicollet County, past recipients chose the current year’s farm family of the year based on the family’s “demonstrated commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture and community involvement,” the release said.

The Hayes family will be recognized in ceremonies at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the annual Minnesota Farmfest on the Gilfillan Estate near Redwood Falls and at 1 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Nicollet County Fair in Johnson Hall.

Tom and Patti Hayes were told by the Bastians, who were named farm family for 2015.

“It’s a total honor,” Patti said. “There are a lot of deserving families.”