ST. CLOUD — The secret's out: Krause Holsteins of Buffalo is the Minnesota Milk Producers Association 2013 Producers of the Year.

The family knew they were getting the award, since a film crew had been out to do a video in October, but they had to keep it a secret. Charles Krause said he didn't tell his parents until the crew was due to arrive because he didn't want his mother, Carol, to tell anyone.

It seems Charles has inherited Carol's gift of public speaking and he's used that ability to be a spokesman for dairy in many ways.

For Charles Krause, standing up for dairy goes all the way back to when he was 11 years old. That year, Channel 11 TV in the Twin Cities came out to their farm every three weeks from April to Thanksgiving to show viewers what was happening on the farm.

Charles was active in FFA in high school and was a state FFA officer. He took SpeakOut! training offered by Midwest Dairy.

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Now, Krause Holsteins hosts many school tours and also visitors from other countries. On June 21, 2014, they will host Wright County Breakfast on the Farm and 2,500 to 3,000 people are expected to attend.

Charles serves on the Midwest Dairy corporate board and through that has participated in three retail academies to inform dairy aisle managers about dairy farming.

About once a year, a TV station comes to the farm for a silly or serious story, Charles said. They've hosted KMSP Channel 9 for their segment, "Dirty Jobs." He welcomes the opportunity to tell the story of dairy farmers.

"God blessed me with the ability to share a message about dairy," Charles said last week, shortly after the receiving the award Dec. 3 during the Midwest Dairy Expo in St. Cloud.

Minnesota Milk recognizes one outstanding operation each year as the Producer of the Year for having a proven commitment to the industry, managing its farm for future generations and for being active in their local community.

Krause Holsteins is the 13th producer to receive the annual honor.

The farm began in 1959 when Warren Krause purchased it after graduating from the University of Minnesota. In 1991, Charles Krause graduated from the University of Minnesota and started full time on the farm. He and Robyn's son, Andrew, is a freshman at the U. Their daughter, Morgan, is a high school junior.

Krause Holsteins consists of 210 Holsteins and about 600 acres.

In its recognition, Minnesota Milk cited Krause Holsteins for its sustainable practices.

The farm has installed energy-saving variable speed fans attached to thermostats and a variable speed vacuum pump in their milking parlor. They use LED lighting and recover heat from the milking process to cool the milk. For 13 years, they chopped newspaper for cattle bedding, reusing more than 1.3 million pounds of newspaper over that time.

"We are always looking for ways to be sustainable and to be good stewards of the land," Charles said. "My parents have always been big supporters of the dairy and they see how new technology will make our cows more comfortable and productive as well."

Last year, the family built a new free-stall barn and installed 32 temperature-controlled 52-inch fans to provide ventilation.

They also began separating solids from manure. The solids are dried and reused for bedding.

Liquid manure is injected into crop land, but before it's injected, the Krause's notify neighbors, including residents who live along a lake adjacent to the farm.

"I have actually received thank-you notes from some shoreline owners for letting them know what's going on," Charles said.