Family, Farming and 4-H; The Thome Family Farm of Adams has farmed for 3 generations

Published 5:57 am Thursday, April 6, 2017

The sun rises over the small town of Adams in Mower County, signifying the beginning of a new day.

And the pigs are hungry.

“The first thing we do is load pigs that are ready for market right away in the morning,” said Matt Thome of the Thome Family Farm in Adams.

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The Thome family has been farming in the Adams area of Mower County for three generations. Although the first generation of the Thome family operated a dairy farm, the current generation runs a farrow-to-finish swine operation and raises crops.

“We feed and care for all the pigs of various ages,” Thome said. “Depending on the time of year, there may be field work, such as planting, harvesting, or tilling.”

Matt’s wife, Amy Thome, works off of the farm, but is no less a part of it. She serves as a co-leader of the local Lucky Clovers 4-H Club, a position she has held for the past four years. The Thome children, Ella, Katie and Will, have been involved with the 4-H Club for five years.

“Our oldest, Ella started in third grade,” Amy said. “Katie started in second grade and Will, our youngest, started in kindergarten.”

Through their involvement with the 4-H Club, the children have learned a variety of lessons, from proper care for animals to public relations for farmers.

“What the kids can accomplish through 4-H gives me a lot of encouragement,” said Amy. “It’s not only for agriculture overall, but for our children to grow, showcase their skills, take care of their animals, and learn life skills. Overall, we’re encouraging kids to be part of something bigger than themselves and showing them that, although we live in a small town, we can help out and give something back to the community.”

Amy is also grateful for the support of the Mower County 4-H Club.

“We have great representation from the county at the Minnesota State Fair,” she said. “There’s a limited number of state fair trips, and we fill our trips quite easily.”

The Thomes purchase animals to participate in livestock shows through the 4-H Club at the county and state fairs. Amy says the process is a very time-consuming matter.

“The process starts in January and February when baby pigs are born,” she said. “You need to start caring for the animal and imagine what you’ll be doing in that show ring when the time comes. You have to care for it every single day. You have to feed it, make sure it gets exercise, track and monitor its immunizations, and make sure its getting appropriate nutrition.”

As the livestock show approaches, the physical appearance of the animal becomes a factor.

“A few weeks before the fair, we wash the pigs on a daily basis to make sure they have clean coats and are shiny and pretty,” Amy said. “They also receive regular haircuts.”

The kids then have to figure out what items they will need for the show.

“You will need a feed pan,” Amy said. “If it’s hot, you may need fans to keep them cool. We want the pigs to be as relaxed and stress-free as possible. We want them to showcase themselves as they naturally are. Stress in an animal is not something we want elevated.”

“You can’t do it half-way,” she added.

Their hard work is not without its rewards. Ella Thome won Reserve Grand Champion at the 2016 Minnesota State Fair in the market gilt (female that has not had babies) category.

Not all of the shows done by the 4-H Club are livestock shows. Katie Thome won Grand Champion of Junior Arts and Crafts at the 2016 Mower County Fair for a second-hand nightstand cabinet she refinished. As part of the contest, she was required to keep track of the materials used, money spent, and do the work herself.

The hard work aside, the shows also teach another valuable lesson: sportsmanship.

“Being a good sport is a big thing,” Amy said. “If you don’t win, then the kid that deserves your congratulations and a handshake because they worked just as hard as you.”

Although livestock shows require so much work, they provide little in monetary gain for the farmers.

“My daughter has a shirt that says, ‘We used to have money, now we have show pigs’,” said Amy with a laugh.

For her, it’s not about the monetary value, but what it provides the kids.

“It’s about having that connection to the animal and our kids being able to learn to be independent and hardworking individuals,” she said. “No matter what part of 4-H you’re a part of, there is a family atmosphere.”