August 16, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
A fleet of campers parked at the Vogt dairy farm south of Sauk Centre for most of last week, as Sally Vogt invited camping friends from across Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota to her home to show them the farming life. She was initially planning to host this sort of informal get-together once, but in listening to her fellow campers and seeing how much they have enjoyed their time, she is already interested in doing it again.
“This is the first event I’ve hosted,” Vogt said. “Once you’ve done it, you know the ins and outs.”
The campers – Lorie Costello, Rosie Court, Lori Hammerstrom, Darcee Larsen, Vashelle Brannon, Ann Foster, Jane Meehan and Kathy Dirkson – did not come just for the recreation, but they also value their trip’s educational aspects.
“When we sit around the campfire, I think we learn something new every time,” Foster said. “We’re not bragging about where we’ve been (or) what we do; we are sharing our information, and it’s the best network.”
The women all belong to a variety of camping and adventure groups, and one they all belong to is Sisters on the Fly, an outdoor adventure group for women. It was founded by a pair of sisters who took their mother fishing in Montana in 1999. They had vintage campers and enjoyed the outdoors, and they started inviting other people to join them. The group now has over 8,000 active members internationally.
“I consider it an organization that empowers women,” Foster said. “We have three rules: No men, no children and have fun. … It’s like-minded women who have a sense of adventure, and we do anything that pops up.”
Being part of this group gives the women a chance to get away from their usual roles – wife, mother, business owner or anything – to relax with their peers.
“You can just go, let your hair down, take care of yourself and have fun for a while,” Meehan said. “Then, you come back after three or four days, and you’re recharged.”
While meeting up during one of their earlier camping outings, Vogt and some of her friends suggested they have an informal gathering at Vogt’s farm. With the property’s electrical availability, Vogt and her husband, Ken Vogt, figured they would have enough power to host about 10 campers, so she invited some of her closest Sisters on the Fly friends.
Everybody arrived the afternoon of Aug. 8, and they grilled for dinner and played games that night. They spent the day touring the Vogt farm. Some of the women were interested in visiting because they had never seen farms or cows up close before.
“Growing up, my cousins all lived on farms,” Dirkson said. “That’s how I made my money in the summer, pulling weeds because they didn’t do pesticides back then, but I had not been up close and personal with a cow until this weekend.”
They woke up early the next morning to see the farm chores being done – and helping as well, with some of the women bottle-feeding newborn calves. They were only minutes too late to see a new calf being born.
The most surprising thing about farming for Meehan was how much work goes into it every day.
“You just take it for granted,” she said. “You go to the grocery store and buy milk. Well, it’s a long process before it gets there, and people need to respect that more. I’m a city girl. We don’t even think of where your food comes from, but we should be grateful to these people.”
The group also learned about the land the Vogts farm to provide feed to their cattle, as well as the recycling of the sand used for the cows’ bedding and the record-keeping that needs to happen.
“To see the whole process from beginning to end was very interesting,” Foster said.
Another learning event for the campers was their Aug. 9 visit to Redhead Creamery near Padua. They toured the facility, saw the cheesemaking process – including its robotic elements – and tried samples.
Back at the Vogt farm, the campers spent the rest of the day making barn quilts, and they ordered pizza for dinner. They then spent another day or two in the area before going their separate ways for the time being.
One of Vogt’s favorite parts of hosting her fellow campers at her home and showing them a slice of rural life has been seeing their excitement.
“They’re mundane chores for me,” Vogt said. “But, their enthusiasm about feeding a calf – you know how many pictures we’re taking of them? … We’re all about promoting dairy, so I think, when they leave and talk to other people, they will tell them what they learned, and people will get a better understanding of the dairy industry.”
The campers are certainly willing to spread that word.
“I can’t wait to tell people about the cows and the robotics,” Costello said.