Tjosaas' long career begins, ends on farm

By Janet Kubat Willette

KASSON, Minn. -- Few people understand the intricacies of dairy promotion and checkoff programs better than Lyle Tjosaas.

Tjosaas has held office on promotion committees at the local, state and national levels, including co-chairing the Midwest Dairy Association board of directors since the organization formed in 2000.

Promotion, he says, has been critical in raising cheese consumption. Increased cheese consumption has helped prop up milk prices.


Tjosaas grew up in Benson, the son of a dairy farmer. He worked at a beef farm in Willmar before coming to southeastern Minnesota in the early 1960s to manage the 900-acre, 200-cow Swiss Valley Farm east of the Hubbell House in Mantorville. The farm was a showplace then, but has now fallen into ruin. It was owned by a St. Paul dentist.

In 1974, he and his wife, Carol, purchased their own farm in rural Kasson. They started out with 70 cows and grew the herd to about 100 in the 28 years they farmed. They raised seven children, and the four boys remain in Kasson.

Without his family, Tjosaas said, he wouldn't have been able to serve on as many committees as he did. In the 1970s, the younger boys did the farm work while he was away and as they left, he hired part-time help. One son continued to farm with him until last fall.

Tjosaas made the decision to sell in December 2000. His son suffers from arthritis and was wondering how much longer he'd be able to keep up with the demands of dairy farming. That pushed him to start making plans to exit dairying.

All the cows, plus five heifers went to a Wells dairy.

"It's kind of the way I wanted to do it," Tjosaas said of selling the cows as a group. "It was a relief when you got them sold, but when they left …"

; He still finds himself jumping up to get ready for chores when the clock says 3 p.m., only to realize he has no cows waiting.

"You miss the structure," he said. "You miss the activity."


Chores were always done at 4 and 4 and meals times were set.

He's been unemployed since Nov. 1 -- aside from driving the Head Start bus for a while -- and is considering other jobs, maybe financial consulting or something in sales, marketing or promotion.

"I told the kids I want to work a half-time job …; 40 hours a week," he said, smiling.

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