Minnesota family upholds farm's rich history, while writing new chapters

Paul and Josie Syverson have their hands full. With three kids, two full-time jobs and a farming operation full of history to call their own, they are always on the go. But, they wouldn't have it any other way.

Paul and Josie Syverson enjoy the change of pace their operation offers them compared to their off-farm jobs. Photo taken March 26, 2021, at Clontarf, Minn. (Emily Beal / Agweek)

For many farmers, there simply are not enough hours in the day to complete all the tasks that need to be done. From feeding the animals to baling hay, a day on the farm is full of hard physical labor. For Paul and Josie Syverson, those long laborious days are worth it, and the pair added even more to the mix: three children and two full-time jobs off the farm.

“I have friends from college that say, ‘Geez, isn’t that a lot?’ But I don’t know what else I would rather be doing,” Paul Syverson said.

A rich history

In 1894, Oli Syverson planted roots in Clontarf, Minn., and started the Syverson family farm. Those roots ran deep and have been tended to by generations of Syversons for over 120 years. While the farm has no doubt seen its fair share of change and adaptation over the years, the Syversons take pride in adding to the farm’s history and writing new chapters in the farm’s story.

Oli Syverson started Syverson family farms in 1894. Photo taken March, 26, 2021, Clontarf, Minn. (Emily Beal / Agweek)

They recently turned the old dairy barn into a lambing facility. Paul’s father, Richard Syverson, was a fourth-generation dairy farmer, but got out of the milking business in 2003.


“We take a lot of pride in the fact that that barn may not be a dairy barn anymore, but it’s still getting used, it’s still in animal agriculture. We’re passing on the knowledge of raising livestock to another generation of kids on the farm,” Paul Syverson said.

Paul’s wife, Josie Syverson, did not come from an agricultural background but has enjoyed becoming a part of a farming family. She is thankful for the Syversons’ vast knowledge of the industry and their long family history in the arena of agriculture.

“I can’t imagine joining a farm operation not coming from a farm family. Paul’s family being in this for many years, we have a lot of the equipment, a lot of the background, a lot of the knowledge,” Josie Syverson said.

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A new venture

After many years of housing cattle on the Syverson farm, a new animal is now ruling the roost: sheep.

The Syversons have a flock of about 150. The majority of their sheep are the breed polypay and are sold for meat purposes. While the sheep were a big change from cattle, Paul believes the transition was the best decision for his family.

One of the deciding factors for the Syversons in regards to getting into the sheep industry was their children. Photo taken March, 26, 2021, Clontarf, Minn. (Emily Beal / Agweek)

“With Josie and I’s young family, we wanted something that the kids could see moms and babies and learn a little more about life,” Paul Syverson said. “We started with sheep because they were small enough. Josie felt comfortable working with them and the kids could be around them without anybody getting hurt.”


The Syversons currently work with Dakota Wool and Lamb Co-op to sell their lambs through contract.

Josie has also enjoyed the new venture, welcoming the change of pace compared to her and her husband’s day jobs.

“It's been really exciting. We have busy lives without sheep, and with sheep it is just so fun because it is different from what our day jobs are,” Josie Syverson said.

Josie is a family practice doctor in Benson, Minn., and also delivers babies in Glenwood, Minn., both of which keep her incredibly busy. However, she enjoys her time working on the farm in the evenings and on the weekends.

“I just love the outlet of getting outside to do chores and bale hay and build fence, things that I had never done prior to being married to Paul.” Josie Syverson said.

Justine, Oli and Oscar Syverson enjoy helping their parents with evening chores. (Contributed photo)

Paul is equally busy, being employed as a mixed animal veterinarian. While he sees all kinds of animals, Paul spends about 90% of his time working with cattle while on the job.

A family affair

Paul and Josie’s three children Justine, Oli and Oscar were a big part of their decision to raise sheep. The pair greatly enjoy raising their children on the farm and watching them grow. They also believe that growing up on a farm is teaching them many life lessons.


“I think there are a lot of lessons kids learn growing up on a farm, especially growing up with livestock. Both life and death happens on the farm and in life,” Paul Syverson said.

Josie believes growing up on a farm is also instilling the value of hard work.

Paul and Josie have greatly enjoyed raising their young family on the farm. Photo taken March, 26, 2021, Clontarf, Minn. (Emily Beal / Agweek)

“The kids know if we need to move sheep, or if we need to do chores, they know it's time to stay on track and listen and pay attention. It’s taught them how important it is to do chores every day and take good care of our animals, even when it's 20 below. Those things just have to be done, and it has helped engrain, even at their young age, how important it is to care for animals,'' Josie Syverson said.

When it comes to family, Paul’s parents, Richard and Vicki Syverson, play an integral role in maintaining the operations order. Richard and Vicki are well-versed in the agricultural industry and have been a great asset to the farm.

Paul's parents, Richard and Vicki Syverson, play an important role in the farm's success. (Contributed photo)

“We have Paul’s parents involved, and that has been essential to have extra help on the farm and with the kids,” Josie Syverson said.

The Syversons are also dedicated to sharing those life lessons and values with those who may not come from a farming background. They have opened their operation to the public so people can see what really takes place on a farm. They're hoping to spread awareness of agriculture and ag literacy.

“They can come see what a real working farm looks like; it’s not a petting zoo. It’s also a YouTube video, they can come and interact,” Paul Syverson said. “We've been able to have about 10 different families come through. A lot of people from town want to see baby lambs.”

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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