Two families, one farm, one faith

Prairie Gold Farm in Hancock, Minnesota

One important way to celebrate rural life without a formal celebration is by telling stories of the people living a rural lifestyle. Two such stories converge on one farm — Prairie Gold Farms near Hancock in Stevens County.

Although their stories are somewhat different, you don’t have to dig very deep to see that what unites the Solvie and Sanchez families is their profound faith, their intense love for their families and their devotion to the land and animals they tend.

Dean and Deb Solvie stand in front of ‘Solvie Slough,’ a family nickname for the pond on their farm in Hancock.

Prairie Gold is owned and operated by the Solvie family. Dean Solvie, his wife, Deb, and their three college-age daughters — Nicole, Ashley and Jennifer — live on the original homestead where Dean grew up. Together with his father, Dennis, who lives across the road, his brother Bruce, who lives about four miles away, and his nephew, Tyler, who lives in Morris, they raise pigs as well as corn, soybeans, sugar beets and kidney beans.

“I grew up on this farm and all my memories are on this farm,” Dean said. “We have so much open space. Whether it was driving four-wheelers, motorcycle, horses, whatever we could talk Mom and Dad into, dogs and cats, and everything. I really enjoyed that, and that’s what I wanted for my family, too.”

Deb also grew up in the country, on her family’s farm near Kensington.

“It’s just so wonderful to raise our family out here,” Deb added. “Our girls learned so many skills. They learned how to work, how to care for animals and how to show appreciation for everything we have. They also understand where their food comes from. To raise our three girls in a rural area has been just wonderful.”

For Dean, spring on the farm is one of the best times of the year, and something to be celebrated.

“I enjoy the smell of the dirt, digging it, planting in it. It doesn’t matter what you are planting, the concept is the same: You’re planting that seed, and you’re going to nurture it, and you’re going to have something at the end. You get to do that every year. And if you didn’t like the way it went this year, you always get a chance to improve it next year.”

Both Deb and Dean rely a lot on their faith, especially during the growing season.

“We are always praying for rain, and we are always blessed by what God gives us,” Deb said.

Occasionally, Isaias’ wife, Anabel, and their two sons, Julian, 4, and Daniel, almost 2, visit Isaias at the Solvie farm.

Because of the size of their operation, they also employ a few people to assist them. That includes Isaias Sanchez, who lives in Morris with his wife, Anabel, and their sons, Julian, 4, and Daniel, almost 2.

Originally from Mexico where his family had a farm, Isaias moved to the Morris area about nine years ago and has worked with Dean for about three years. The Solvies and the Sanchezes both attend Assumption Parish in Morris.

“The Sanchezes are just a great family,” Dean said. “You can see Isaias’ Christianity at work in how he does things, how he interacts. It is very refreshing. He is very faith-based with his family. He has very similar standards, similar values as I do and who I am. It’s just great to see.”

Dean Solvie, right, and Isaias Sanchez regularly talk over the day’s plans on the farm.

Isaias works primarily in swine production and is responsible for three facilities, each housing about 2,400-2,500 pigs. His role begins when the baby pigs are about 13 pounds and are weaned from their mothers. They batch farm, which means there is a new litter every four weeks. Isaias takes care of them until they go to market — typically six months from farrow to finish.

What Isaias appreciates most about rural life is the peacefulness of the countryside.

“It is very quiet here, the people are very nice. Our children can play ball and ride bicycles. I feel that if they were growing up in the city, they would be playing video games or watching TV. In the country, there is always something to do,” Isaias said.

“I love this area,” Anabel added. “It is really centered on family and it is a beautiful place for us to raise our children.”

Anabel and Daniel Sanchez

In Isaias’ previous position, his hours were long and he would come home from work too tired to play with his young sons. Anabel and Isaias are both grateful to the Solvies who understand that faith and family come first.

Anabel said the extra time Isaias has allows them to be more involved in the community and the church.

“In Mexico, my family always attended Mass,” she said. “Every day my grandfather would go to church and pray the rosary. Now we can continue that beautiful tradition with our family.”

(photos by Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)

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2020 CATHOLIC CENTURY FARM AWARDS

THE CATHOLIC CENTURY FARM AWARDS are a way that Catholic Charities and the bishop of St. Cloud honor those Catholic families who have farmed and nurtured the same land for 100 years or more.

“Different from the state or county-based century farm registries, the Catholic Century Farm Awards are an opportunity for our whole diocese to recognize the deep connection between our faith and farming traditions,” said Kateri Mancini, director of social concerns for Catholic Charities. “It encourages us to reflect on our many neighbors who are living out the Catholic social teaching of care for creation through their call to the vocation of farming. And it allows us to share our gratitude for the nourishment they provide to our communities in more ways than one through faith in God and the work of their hands.”

This year, eight farm families, from eight different communities in Stearns and Todd counties, will be receiving the award. The longest-standing farm being recognized this year has been farmed for five generations spanning across 143 years (farm established in 1877). The “youngest” farm honoree is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. For more information about the awards and the farms, please visit www.ccstcloud.org/rural-life.

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10 Ways to Celebrate Rural Life

1. Have a special Mass or prayer service for farmers in your community.

2. At weekend Masses, include petitions and prayers for farming, good weather, timely rains, safe harvests, bountiful harvests, fair market prices, in thanksgiving for farmers, etc.

3. Be intentional about celebrating feast days in the Church that relate to God’s creation, such as St. Isidore (May 15), St. Maria, his wife (Sept. 14), the Assumption, celebrating the first fruits of the harvest (Aug. 15), St. Francis of Assisi, patron of animals (Oct. 4), and St. Kateri, patron of ecology/the environment (July 14).

4. Plant a garden. Teach a child (or adult) about gardening, harvesting and preserving food. Share abundance from your garden with others after Masses or in some other way, or with local food shelves.

5. Host a “farm-to-table” meal, consisting of only items grown on your homestead. Perhaps gather with neighbors or families to enjoy the diversity of food and the fellowship.

6. Take up a special collection for our diocese’s Rural Life Fund, which helps rural individuals and families with small emergency funds in their time of need.

7. Go for a bike or car ride in the diocese and pay special attention to the farms you see; pray for the farmers of those farms you pass.

8. Send thank-you cards to farmers in your community.

9. Visit farmers markets. Buy local produce. Find a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm or coop in your area. Try out new recipes with fruits or vegetables this summer.

10. Do a nature scavenger hunt with your children/family. Take a walk and count the number of different colors you see in nature. Pay special attention to your senses, being attentive to something you see, something you smell, something you hear, something you feel in nature.

— Office of Social Concerns, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the associate editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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