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Wink Farming – A true family business

By Kelsie Hoitomt

EMERALD — For over 70 years, the Wink family has been milking cows and running crop land with the start of the three generation farmstead beginning in 1942 with Bud and Lucille.

Bud and Lucille moved to the Emerald Township from Hudson in 1942. They bought a farm, which was located just a crow’s fly away from where the existing place is now.

The two of them along with their ten children farmed around 15 to 20 dairy cows, which were milked by hand and by the light of a lantern.

They advanced to milking machines once electricity came to the area, which increased their head count as well.

They managed their own crop land and grew oats, corn and hay, which stayed home to feed their own cattle.

There were no tractors then so it was a team of horses that drove the fields.

They lived off the land in those days and fed the family with a few beef cows, chickens, pigs and a big garden.

Out of ten kids, Tom was the only child of Bud and Lucille’s that wanted to farm so after high school, he stayed home and worked.

Tom graduated in 1960 and just prior to that in 1958, the farm just west on 130th was purchased. At that time the main barn there had burned so only heifers were moved there.

It wasn’t until 1972 when a dairy barn was built on the farm. That is now the main farmstead for the Wink Dairy Farm LLC, which is on 130th Avenue and where Brent and Lorelei and their children now live.

Back to the 1960’s, Tom married Judy in 1963 and that is when they moved to the main farmhouse, which they purchased from Bud and Lucille prior to 1972.

They had their first child, Mike, in 1964 and over the course of ten years they would have five more boys and one girl- Mark, Dean, Donan, Barb, Brent and Troy.

By this time the Winks were now managing over 400 acres of cropland as a family and Tom and Judy had around 70 dairy cows in the newly built barn that they were milking two times a day.

Tom and Bud were now milking their own dairy cows on two separate farms as two different entities, but together they still helped each other as a family.

This way of farming and doing business has since continued in the Wink family.

Following the construction of the new dairy barn, Tom expanded his farm in 1976 with the building of a silo, the reconstruction of a pig barn into a calf shed and the house was remodeled.

Then in 1979, the head of cows increased from 70 to 90, which they were milking with a pipeline, and a second silo was built. Also between 1979-80 they added about 90 acres.

Finally in 1980, the fourth and final silo was built, which was the extent of the adding aside from additional acreage over the years.

It was two years prior in 1978 that Bud sold out and retired, but he remained as a “hired hand” to Tom and Judy.

At this time Judy was Tom’s main help on the farm. Before the kids were old enough, she did it all from chores, to milking to planting fields and running choppers and combines, etc.

In the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s, the seven kids were growing up and going through school so work on the farm remained steady and typical.

In 1985, Dean graduated from high school and went off to college where he earned a Business Administrator Degree with an emphasis in Economics.

His interest was in farming so after college he came back to working alongside his family in 1990, milking 110 cows and running between 600-800 acres.

By this time, all but the youngest, Troy, were left for family help. It was towards the mid-90’s when they finally hired their first help outside of the family.

It was in the 90’s that creameries also stopped providing insurance to farmers, so with the children out of school and the house, Judy went off the farm for work.

In 1994, Dean decided to branch off and farm his own piece. So he bought a herd and rented a barn to milk cows in all while still helping his parents.

It was that same year that Brent graduated from college and began working for Land O’ Lakes.

In 1997, Brent decided to follow in the family footsteps of farming and he began renting land. He and Lorelei have since stuck with cropland, but do not have any dairy cattle.

They, like Dean still help Tom on the farm with his chores and milking.

It was in 2000 when the Wink Dairy Farm LLC was formed, which is today primarily Tom and Judy’s. Brent and Lorelei and Dean and his wife Shelley are written underneath as secondaries to the business.

Aside from the LLC, Brent and Lorelei also have their own farm business and Dean and Shelley own and operate their own farm as well.

Also playing a very important role to the Wink Dairy Farm is Tom and Judy’s second oldest, Mark and his wife Shari. Their son Donan also plays a part in keeping the family business alive and running.

Their generation is the third in the Wink family and the future lies in the hands of their children. Brent and Lorelei’s son Justin is a full-time farmhand and Dean and Shelley’s son Jordan is as well.

They are both in their early 20’s and are the future fourth generation.

Also carrying on the Wink family tradition is Mike’s oldest son, Michael. He has been working full time for Wink Dairy since the early 2000’s.

Today, the Wink family combined, crops over 4,000 acres and milks over 500 cows. They are now using milking parlors and are equipped with high tech machinery that comes with GPS systems.

In terms of history and progress, the Wink men reminisced of milk prices being at $5/6 in the early 70’s and then jumping to around the $8-10 range in the late 70’s.

Then by the 80’s they were around $9/12, which is where they were by 2002. Today, prices hit a record high in 2014 with averages around $24.

Crop prices have also been a roller coaster with a bushel of corn under $1 in the 60’s. By 74’ they jumped to around $4, but the price plummeted in the 90’s to between $1-2.

By the 2000’s, corn was being used for ethanol so the prices began to slowly climb and were around $7 in 2012, which was basically an all time high.

Today in 2014, they are sitting around $3/4.

The price for cropland has also changed significantly over the decades. Tom remembers that in 1963, it was $100 for an acre.

By the 80’s, land was going for around $1,000 an acre, but by the 90’s it dropped to around $400.

In 2012, there was a major spike, which saw acreage go for $4,000 with it now evening out to between $1,500-3,000.