Dairy farmer Amber Horn-Leiterman

The Land O'Lakes Farm Bowl kicks off

Dairy farmer Amber Horn-Leiterman helps bring the farm to football

Last week, football came to the farm with the announcement of the first-ever Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl. With Minneapolis, Land O’Lakes, Inc.’s home base, set to host the big game in early 2018, we decided to get in on the action.

That’s why on Feb. 1, 2018, we’ll be hosting an ag-focused competition between current and former professional football players and farmers at the University of Minnesota—all in the spirit of celebrating farmers and the critical importance of modern agriculture. Teams will maneuver through a series of light-hearted challenges specifically designed to demonstrate the skill, determination and grit required on the farm.

To learn more about how this event connects to modern farming, we caught up with Amber Horn-Leiterman, Land O’Lakes member-owner, farmer at Hornstead Dairy and future Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl participant (or champion, perhaps?).

Amber, you recently helped us introduce the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium. We have to ask, as a Green Bay Packers fan, what was it like visiting the home of the Minnesota Vikings?

[Laughs] Well, I was joking beforehand that I might break out in a rash. When you grow up in Wisconsin, especially this close to Green Bay, you bleed green and gold. But it was an incredible experience! Meeting the Vikings players, like Kyle Rudolph, Trae Waynes, Anthony Barr and others was humbling. They asked great questions and were very appreciative about what we farmers do daily and were truly invested in the program.

While we joked about my allegiances to another team, we were together on our message of what a big deal the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl could be and will be to farmers and modern agriculture. Mr. Rudolph assured me he wouldn’t be able to compete for the Farm Bowl trophy because his eyes were set on the Lombardi trophy, and when asked, I couldn’t help but promise to cheer for them if they made it past my Green Bay Packers, but only if.

Could you tell us a little about your farm?

Hornstead Dairy is a family business. It was founded in Brillion, Wisconsin in 1863. That makes me the sixth-generation. We’re a medium-sized farm for the area, milking about 1,000 cows, mostly Holsteins, and shipping our milk to the Land O’Lakes cheese plant in Kiel. We also have crops on 1,600 acres.

I work with my parents, Brian and Lori Horn, and my brother, Tom, on the farm. Our other brother, Mike, drives a milk truck and has an OTR business. My husband, Kevin, is an electrician and is currently helping us with the construction of our new milking parlor. We have four young boys, between the ages of 14 months and 11 years old.

With all the activity happening around the farm and with Land O’Lakes, it’s been an exciting summer for us.

What’s your day-to-day like?

It’s never the same. My job is to oversee our herd management and public relations, as well as manage some of our 15 employees and handle the farm records. I’m also the current chairwoman of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, and I’m a member of several other industry organizations.

Growing up, did you want to be a dairy farmer?

Nope! I went to college at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. My degree is in agricultural finance, and before graduation I started working with AgStar on crop input loans. I was working in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, with a view from the fifth floor. A small-town girl in the big city.

What I soon realized was that I really wanted to be involved in production agriculture. So, I moved back home. Production ag suits me. I don’t have to wear make-up every day or comb my hair. [Laughs]

What are some misconceptions you find people have about modern farming?

As a woman in farming, I’ve found people often assume my husband is the one running the farm. They’ll turn and ask him questions. I think it’s important to never assume things when walking onto a modern farm operation based on the gender of the one who greets you at the barn door.

Another misconception I think people have is not understanding that our dairy is a business and needs to operate like a business. We’re a family business, yes, but we are making investments and upgrading our infrastructure so we can continue to grow. We have animals and land to take care of, and the overhead there is immense. We need to be smart so we can support our family, our employees and help give back to our community.

On a more general level, people don’t understand where their food comes from. I just saw a survey where people think brown cows produce chocolate milk! People are also surprised to learn Land O’Lakes is a member-owned cooperative. They see Fortune 500 and think corporation, which it is, but its owned by farmers. Farmers are the roots of the company—and they’ve done a good job remembering that.

Back to the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl. Could you share some details of the main event?

Farmers and professional football players will be paired together on eight of two. We’ll compete on a course built to test on-farm experiences and skills, so hopefully the farmers have an advantage! I know I can clean a manure pump with the best of them. Too bad that’s not one of the events.

 

Mostly, I’m hoping kids and adults will see us, farmers, willing to have fun and make fun of ourselves a little, and they’ll remember us and remember what we do. Do you think football players and farmers have anything in common?

Both farmers and football players make a lot of sacrifices. Obviously, it’s not on the same level, but we are both working holidays and weekends. There are early mornings and late nights. It’s hard but rewarding work. My boys love to play sports, and football is a big one in our house.

Football players are known for intense fitness regiments. What have you been doing to prepare for the big event in February?

[Laughs] Drinking a lot of water! Trying to get my steps in every day. My kids are noticing that I’m up earlier every morning to try and get some exercise in. I’ve even stopped drinking soda.

What are you most excited about?

Sharing the ag story on this large of a stage. It’s the big game, the whole world will be watching, and we’ll be there helping to put a face to farming.

Being in Wisconsin, we are lucky. Many people know a farmer, and for those that don’t, there are a lot of Breakfasts on the Farm and other events where people can come and learn about farming. That isn’t the case everywhere, and I believe everyone should know a farmer.

The Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl is a chance to reach a whole new audience on a bigger scale than ever before.

What’s one takeaway you hope people have from the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl?

Trust. I hope people will have continued trust in farmers and a better understanding of where their food comes from. Farmers are just like you. We’re your neighbors and we’re the ones producing your food.