Family farm has exhibited sheep for six decades
By Carol Stender
It’s county fair time and our thoughts turn to ferris wheels, corn dogs and cotton candy. But for these New York Mills youth, their thoughts are focused on the show ring.
Meet siblings Rowland, Dixie and Hazel Dyhkoff and their first cousin, once removed, Moriah Geiser. They represent, respectively, the third and fourth generations to show sheep at the fair representing Dew Drop Farm.
They are following the path of their parents and their parent’s parents who’ve done it before them.
At the heart of this story is Rowland’s namesake, Rowland Bauck. The 95-year-old patriarch and his wife, Lillian, raised 10 children - seven girls and three boys - and supported the kids’ 4-H endeavors.
Their farm was diversified with some milk cows, sheep, pigs and chickens. Then, in the 1960s, their son, David, started showing sheep in the open class division at the Minnesota State Fair. Soon it became a family affair.
For nearly six decades the farm has exhibited sheep in open class at county and state fairs and other livestock exhibitions. The extended Bauck family assists whenever needed at a show.
The generational heritage of showing sheep is not lost on the youth.
Moriah recalled a sheep show the younger Rowland won. As he looked at his trophy which listed past recipients of the honor, he said, ‘We’re related to him, and related to him and related to him…
“To see that and to know we are part of a pretty amazing legacy is really something,” said the 17-year-old.
It was the elder Rowland who started the show bug. He fondly recalled how his own older brother got him involved in the 4-H show.
When he had to get his livestock to the fair, Rowland Bauck took matters into his own hands.
He was 14 and had no drivers license, but that didn’t faze him. He drove the truck with his stock to the fair.
And he had fun. One year, Rowland and his buddies jumped the fence to get into the event to get in the East Otter Tail County Fair. Security began chasing them. It was all for naught as each person in the group had a 4-H pass which let them into the fair, but the fun was in the chase.
“We made our own entertainment,” he said.
He did love working with the livestock and carried that passion onto his own family.
His three sons, Darrin, Duane and David, manage the farm. Darrin handles all livestock and show registrations. David takes care of the crops and raises cattle. And Duane heads the showing.
The family continues to show open class at the Minnesota State Fair, in Idaho and in Arizona. In the past, they have also shown in New Mexico and South Dakota, as well as numerous county fairs.
They’ve seen some pretty quirky things, Darrin said. At a Phoenix, Ariz. show, the livestock were in an air conditioned barn. Not the norm for Minnesota.
While they’ve shown sheep in many states, the East Otter Tail County Fair holds a special place for this family. It’s their home fair and a gathering place. On the Thursday night of the fair, the family holds a potluck supper that garners between 60 to 70 relatives.
A family picture has become the norm for the events. Those photo shoots started after Mom Lillian’s death 20 years ago.
“I wish we would’ve done it before,” said Dinee, Darrin’s sister and mom to the Dyhkoff crew.
The farm has 140 ewes with three purebred lines including Rambouillet, Columbia, Corriedale, Dorset and natural colored sheep.
And the youth help out, as well. Moriah does morning chores while the younger Rowland takes the evenings. It’s in the evenings the ewes often lamb so it’s important to watch the stock, he said.
“It’s not just going to the show to look cool,” said Rowland. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes work to do.”
During the summer, they work with their sheep at least twice a week. The animals are led around the farmyard and, a month before the show, the stock gets a good trimming. Touch ups take place before and after an event.
So with all those family members who’ve shown in the past, do the kids get constant pointers on what to do in the ring?
Moriah laughed at the question.
“We get a lot of feedback,” she said. “It’s ‘constructive criticism.’ It’s not yelling, it’s ‘constructive criticism.’”
She is following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Donna, who was one of the first women to show sheep at the Minnesota State Fair.
“Yep, she made the national news,” Darrin said. “A few years later, her sister won, too.”
While there is prize money or premiums for the exhibitors, showing in the open class division is business. It’s a way to show other sheep producers and exhibitors what their Dew Drop Farm sheep look like and may prompt sales.
Last year, during COVID-19 quarantines, there were few shows including no Minnesota State Fair. And this year, because of the state fair’s monetary losses, premiums have been cut.
As a result, Dew Drop Farm won’t be taking the numbers they usually have exhibited. “We have had three trailers of sheep or about 150 sheep just in the open class show,” Darrin said. “This year we will be bringing one trailer.”
Despite the challenges the year has brought, the family has remained strong and committed to the farm and each other. The mentorship, alone, is something others have noted, Darrin said.
Beyond the show ring, there is a team work that most don’t get to see, Darrin said. An example is the splitting of chores among the youth. Moriah takes the morning work and the younger Rowland does the evenings. During lambing season, the watchfulness with the flock is especially important.
And sometimes the life lessons are hard.
“What do you do when what was to be a double set of twins is born dead,” Darrin said.
“There was a young girl in the barn crying. It’s a hard thing and there’s nothing you can do. It’s hard.”
For now, it’s the draw of fair season that’s creating a special buzz in the air at the farm.
There’s the hustle and bustle of sheep being led through the yard. There are trailers being readied to haul the stock to the show. And memories of eating bologna sandwiches from a cooler while getting the animals fit for the event.
Through all the struggles and ups and downs, it’s a learning experience that’s carried from one generation to the next.
The elder Rowland summed it all up. “It’s character building,” he said.