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Reaping the good life

Because of the seasons and the weather, life on the farm is one of constant change and adjustment.

Kevin and Brenda Volesky's farm, north of South Heart has been through its share of changes and adjustments over the years, but one thing has stayed the same, they love what they do.

"It's a very good life, I really like it," Kevin said. "It was a good way to bring up the family."

Kevin and Brenda raised their five daughters on the farm and each of them had their jobs to do.

"They had some work to do," Kevin said. "Milking, feeding calves, pulling calves, they could do it all."

The oldest of the girls Heidi, 29, is married and lives with her husband, Jon Mehlhoff, in Rapid City, S.D. Twin daughters, Holly and Heather, 27, live and work in Houston. Hope, 23, lives and works in Dickinson and Haylee, 21, goes to school at the University of North Dakota.

Haylee said that while she was growing up, there was probably a little unhappiness with living in the country, as she gets older she's learned to appreciate it.

"I think as a kid I wanted to be in town," Haylee said. "But now I wouldn't have it any other way."

Brenda said she can't put a price tag on the experiences her and Kevin were able to provide for their children, raising them on a farm.

"There's no better thing to do," Brenda said. "I think growing up on a farm is priceless."

Kevin and Brenda, if anybody, would be qualified to say so, having both grown up on farms themselves.

The farm he and Brenda now own was started originally be Robert F and Tillie, Kevin's parents, in the 1950s. Their original house was a little to the north of the current place. The Voleskys moved to the current homestead in 1960.

Kevin thought about taking over when he was growing up, but being the middle of five brothers he wasn't sure what would happen.

"It just kind of happened," Kevin said. "There were five boys and it just worked out this way."

Brenda also grew up on a farm near South Heart. She is the daughter of well-known southwestern North Dakota auctioneer Tony Krance, who passed away in February, and his wife, Maggie.

Marrying a farmer was never anything Brenda gave much thought to, but she did give thought to marrying Kevin, her high school sweetheart.

"I never really wanted to be a farmer's wife, I just always wanted to be his wife," Brenda said with a laugh.

Shortly after high school in 1976, Kevin and Brenda got married and moved to the farm to take over in 1979.

The couple said, just like today, without the help of family members, they couldn't have made it work.

"Without the help of parents and stuff, it's real tough," Kevin said. "I wish it wasn't that way, I wish they (young farmers) could get started."

At first, Kevin also worked on the oil rigs and was able to purchase a couple of pieces of equipment at auction sales ran by his father-in-law's auction service.

"He went to auction sales and bought some equipment," Brenda said. "He worked on the rigs early on, but it was because he worked on the rigs that he could do that (buy equipment)."

Along with the farming part of the operation, Kevin and Brenda also continued running the dairy.

When the girls started playing high school basketball for South Heart, the milking schedule made it difficult for the family to make it to games and milk the cows in a timely fashion.

Kevin and Brenda's solution?

Milk later in the morning and later at night so they could attend their daughter's basketball games.

The previous schedule of 5 a.m., 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. became 10:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Following the switch, Kevin and Brenda would go watch the girls play then go home and milk.

"It was good, it worked out real well," Kevin said.

In 2002, with poor milk prices and not the same amount of help they had in the past, Kevin and Brenda decided to switch over to a beef cattle operation.

They said they've enjoyed the switch, but they've been surprised by how little the everyday operation has changed.

"We thought to that when we quit milking that we were going to have tons of time, but we haven't," Brenda said.

"Looking at it now, we're so busy, I don't even know how we had the time to milk when we did," Haylee added.

Corrals once filled with Holsteins are now filled with Simmental, Angus and Gelbvieh cattle.

The cows, like most in the region this year have been in the corral a little longer than usual this year because of drought conditions and a lack of adequate grass.

Kevin said as a farmer you need to prepare for years like this year, just like you prepare for good commodity price years like last.

"Every 10 years, you'll probably have a bad year, it's just something that happens," Kevin said.

Carrying on the family farm is something that Kevin is happy to do, but Brenda said its something that Kevin's father is even happier to see. Robert F. will routinely come out to visit and see what's going on around the farm that he and his family built.

One change is the use of no-till technology on the farm, which Kevin started using in 1994.

"It's been a very big improvement," Kevin said.

Will Kevin come back someday to see what one of his daughter's is doing with the place? That's still up in the air.

"I think we've all thought about what will happen to it," Haylee said. "...I think we would all like to be able to keep the farm, even if we just rent out the land."

"If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't," Kevin said.