Meet Our Farmers
For 25 years, Karen Kasper has been dedicated to sharing her family’s farm story with her community, especially school children. From hosting field trips on their farm to taking animals to the local library, and participating in agriculture speaking programs for schools and community groups and a Kasper Dairy Facebook page, she’s always looking for a new opportunity to introduce dairy farming to new audiences.
Field trips to the farm included tours of the dairy as well as other animals and touring her large pumpkin patch in the fall. However, when some area schools were no longer able to bring field trips to the farm due to budget cuts, she decided to get to work on an idea that she’d been thinking about for a while.
“For years, I’ve been filing things away from our farm life in my mind that could make great stories for children,” said Karen. “I decided to begin turning those ideas into children’s books so that we could share information about farm life more broadly.”
Karen’s first book, “A Suitcase of Seven,” was published in February, and features the story of seven Jack Russell terrier puppies born on the farm. The photos for the book were taken by Karen’s daughter Stephanie.
A Suitcase of Seven is the first in the “Cow Boss” series of books that Karen is planning. All of the books will include cows and most come from daily experiences on the farm. The series’ title came from “Cow Boss,” a name given to one of their Jack Russell terriers who gained a reputation for watching cows and keeping them away from open gates and other opportunities to get out.
“In the first book, one of the puppies is learning to be a Cow Boss,” she said. “In fact, everyone on the farm is our own type of Cow Boss because we’ve learned to work with cows and calves all day.”
Recently released, the second book in the series, “Jose’s Farm Adventure,” focuses on a boy who comes along with his father who works on the dairy farm. Jose meets the farm animals, helps feed newborn calves, learns how the cows are cared for and milked, and more. She has a number of ideas for future books, including seasons on the farm and features on other farm animals.
Karen and her husband, Pete, purchased a dairy farm near Owatonna, Minnesota, in 1987. Pete grew up on a dairy farm and Karen grew up in a small Minnesota town. The farm was originally a 60 cow dairy where cows were housed and milked in a tie-stall barn. Over the years, the Kaspers have made a number of additions and changes. They currently milk about 400 cows in a parlor and have added new freestall barns and calf raising barn to provide comfortable housing for the animals and easier working conditions for the family and farm employees.
Karen and Pete own and operate the dairy with their son Tony. Their daughters Stephanie, Caitlin, and daughter-in-law, Betsy help at the farm when they are able. Their first grandchild arrived this year when Milo was born to Tony and Betsy.
The Kaspers raise their own calves in a new calf barn completed in 2015. Heifer calves are raised to join the milking herd. They also raise crops on about 200 acres, primarily corn silage for feeding dairy cows. They raise grass hay and purchase other hay and commodities to feed cows and calves.
In addition to dairy cows and calves, Karen has tried to have a number of other animals on the farm for tour group visitors to meet including laying hens, ducks, farm dogs, cats, pigs and goats.
“People enjoy meeting all the animals. I like to have some that are unique and unusual,” she said.
She also has a large pumpkin patch where she grows pumpkins and a variety of decorative and unusual gourds. The pumpkins and gourds are available for purchase, and the family runs a business to decorate homes and businesses for the fall season.
Earlier this year, Karen was also recognized with a special honor. She was named the Midwest Regional winner of Farm Mom of the Year by America’s Farmers. She was nominated by her daughter Stephanie, received a $5,000 prize and will have the opportunity to help at events and trade shows throughout the year.
“It was an amazing experience to meet the other women nominated and I am proud to represent dairy farmers in the program,” she said.
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