KIESTER - The surprise is what made it special.
Mark and Sharon Obermeyer will be honored as the 2012 Faribault County Farm Family of the Year at the Faribault County Fair at 1 p.m. Wednesday during the Farm and Fair Awards in "The Tent" on the fairgrounds in Blue Earth.
The Obermeyers were totally taken off guard when they got a call from Donna Steele with the local Extension Office to say they'd been chosen.
HOME?SINCE?1971 — Mark and Sharon Obermeyer were chosen the 2012 Faribault County Farm Family of the Year by the Extension Office. The Obermeyers raise grain east of Kiester.
"We had no inkling of anything until we got the call; that's what kind of made it special for us," Mark said. "We're humbled by it. It was just granted to us on the basis of what the committee felt about us. Really is quite an honor."
"It's definitely a family award for us," Sharon said.
"It's not Mark and Sharon, it's our family that's done this," insisted Mark.
That's because they raised three kids on the land Mark started farming in 1971. Mark and Sharon married two years later. As their kids grew, so did the farm and changes came along with it.
When Jerrod, Phillip and Melissa were growing up and helping out on the farm, the Obermeyers raised crops and had beef cows and a farrow-to-finish hog operation.
"Twenty years ago, the boys would've been cultivating and Melissa mowing lawn," said Mark, noting the beautiful summer day. They'd break in the afternoon for baseball, then "come home at night and go back to work."
It taught their kids responsibility and a work ethic, the Obermeyers said.
"For us, it was a wonderful place to raise our children, working all together every day," Sharon said. "That was very valuable."
Back then, they needed to raise livestock to support their family financially, but when Melissa graduated from college in 2004, "we felt we could do without our livestock," Mark said.
"The livestock industry changed," Mark said. "Integration took over and we chose not to go that route."
Plus, the hog barn was in need of repair, Sharon added.
"To repair it, we needed a long-term commitment or do without," she said.
Another factor was Jerrod's career moves.
"Jerrod chose to develop a trucking business," Sharon said.
"Plus farming on the side," Mark added. "He's invested in land and machinery."
Even though the kids are all in their 30s, they haven't forgotten their roots.
Jerrod and his wife, Heather, live next door with their two kids, Tristian and Reanna, and help out. Mark and Sharon have a little more than 1,200 acres in corn and soybeans while Jerrod farms more than 700 acres of corn and soybeans.
"We share labor and machinery with Jerrod," Mark said.
Phillip and wife MacKenzie live in Rochester.
"Phillip is a great asset," Mark said. "He works with Crop Production Services and provides expertise in agronomy. He has an agronomy and business degree. He does help with the fall fieldwork."
Melissa and husband Jeff Deuth live in Menomonie, Wis., with their daughter, Kaitlyn, but Melissa can do her share too.
"Until she had her daughter, she'd help in the fall too," Sharon said.
Mark knows his kids understand farming, but he doesn't think the same is true for others.
"Farmers need to keep a good image with consumers," Mark said. "City people in general don't have the ag roots they once did. We need to inform them of what we're all about. Communication, that's a big one.
"I want the public to know we feel very deeply for the land," Mark said. "We want to preserve it, make it better. We're stewards, not just taking things off it. We're very concerned it is maintained and kept in good condition."
Mark smiles when asked about retirement.
"No plans to retire," he said. "As long as we're able and it's satisfying and good for us, I'd say we keep on indefinitely."
It's a lifestyle he and his wife enjoy.
"We're happy to be farming," Mark said. "We consider ourselves fortunate to be able to. Not always easy; there's been some sleepless nights, but it has been good to us."