Awards keep coming for Adams' Gary Thome

By Janet Kubat Willette

The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

ADAMS — Gary Thome has received a string of honors this year, but he's quick to say none of his efforts was meant to earn awards.

Thome, of Adams, was named the Minnesota Outstanding Ag Educator for 2009-2010 and Minnesota's Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year. His family was named the 2010 Minnesota Pork Industry Family of the Year. On April 26, Thome will be inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame.

"It's really been an honor," Thome said, because all but one of the awards have been a selection by his peers.


Thome and his wife, Jane, farm with their sons and daughers-in-law: Matt and Amy, and Pat and Gretchen. Son Peter is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and daughter Sarah is an elementary teacher.

The Thomes co-own a sow unit with another family. They purchased the unit in 2008. Weaned pigs weighing 12 pounds come to the Thomes' nursery barns and at 35 pounds are moved to finishing barns. The Thomes own three barns and they work with custom growers. Hogs are marketed at 265 pounds, which is 5 to 6 months of age.

All the Thomes' hogs are marketed through Hormel Foods Corp.

"Hormel's a good company to work with," Thome said.

A family effort

Matt is in charge of the family's swine operation, and Pat oversees the crops and machinery. Gary does the record keeping, financing and bill paying.

The trio sit down at the table to discuss issues and make farm decisions cooperatively as partners, Thome said.

"We all can't know everything," he said.


Thome has spent most of his farming career in the dual role of farmer and farm business management instructor.

He and Jane moved back to Adams in summer 1979, when he took a job with the school district as a farm business management instructor. At that time, farm business management programs operated through school districts. It wasn't until the early or mid-1990s that the programs moved to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, he said.

From summer 1988 to fall 1989, Thome took a leave of absence from teaching to farm. That was a tough year and a half, Thome said. He missed the people and he missed running the numbers for different scenarios.

Now, Thome works with 65 families involved in about 50 farming operations in the counties of Freeborn, Fillmore and Mower. He's heavy on swine operations and multi-family operations, he said.

He has also found time to be involved with the Minnesota Association for Agriculture Educators and FFA. He served as president of the association and is on the committee that plans the national FFA farm business management contest. He's involved with the recently formed Southland FFA alumni chapter.

"Developing a passion for what you're doing, along with loving what you're doing, really makes for a wonderful life," Thome said.

Janet Kubat Willette is a staff writer for Agri News, a weekly agriculture newspaper published by the Post-Bulletin Co.

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