Empty Nesters Make Room for Hobbies
Steve and Jodi Roelofs (pronounced Row-loffs) live in a garden spot near Mankato, Minnesota. It’s only fitting to shine a spotlight on their operation during National Gardening Month in April.
Jodi’s passion for gardening and re-purposing vintage furniture and equipment is evident from the moment one pulls into their yard. Pots and gardens filled with lush, color flowers. Her vegetable garden is a work of art. The backyard looks like something from a “Country Living” or “Better Homes & Gardens” photo shoot.
The couple raised their family in the farmhouse next door where Steve was raised. Today that house serves as Steve’s farm office and Jodi’s workshop. The former kitchen and living room are filled with projects in various stages of re-purposing.
Jodi studied graphic arts at South Central College in Mankato where she met Steve, who studied ag production. She says she began working part-time at flower shops when her kids were small because it allowed her to enjoy adult conversation and provided her with a creative outlet. The scale of Jodi’s gardens has grown as her children grew.
The Roelofs are the proud parents of four sons:
- Tony, 36, worked at ADM. He started in Lloydminster, Canada, and then moved to Red Wing, Minnesota, before getting transferred to Valdosta, Georgia. He has moved several other times. Tony currently works for Columbia Grain. He and his wife, Lynette, live in Portland, Oregon, where she is a forensic psychologist.
- Christopher, 34, works the night shift for UPS. When the trucks come in, he repairs them before the next day. He also has his own shop to work on cars.
- Bryant, 30, farmed for six years with Steve before going to work for Speedy. He is getting married in June 2022 on the Roelofs farm. His fiancé, Tiffany, works at the Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic in Mankato.
- Matthew, 23, is studying history and political science. He will graduate in May 2022 from South Dakota State in Brookings.
Jodi also served as a 4-H leader from the time their oldest son was 10 years old until their youngest son graduated in May 2017. During her tenure as a 4-H leader, she shared her passion with New Horizon 4-H Club members. They won an award from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the bird feeding station they built on the Blue Earth County Fairgrounds in Garden City, Minnesota.
“We had so much fun at the fair with our kids,” said Jodi, who grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm and belonged to 4-H.
Steve and Jodi say they particularly enjoyed staying at the state fair with their kids, who showed pigs. Adults stayed in the camper, while the kids slept in tents or in the hog barn. While that night of sleep might not have been best, it made for great memories.
These empty nesters are embracing this new chapter of life. They’ve learned to adjust and adapt through the years.
When Steve and Jodi’s oldest son went to college, the family stopped farrowing. Jodi had been working in the farrowing barns, so this change gave her the opportunity to return to working in a floral shop. Steve and his brother, who had been farming together in a family corporation, decided to split the operation. A market crash prompted them to reevaluate the pork operation. Since 2015, Steve has leased his pig barns.
“This arrangement works well for us,” says Steve. “We’re responsible for the day-to-day care of the feeder pigs but we don’t have to assume any of the risk. Each month we know exactly what we’ll make.”
Selling Latham® brand seed also complements the family’s grain and pork operations. They’ve cut expenses while increasing income.
“We went to FarmFest and spoke with a few different seed companies about dealerships,” says Steve. “We really liked the idea of working with a family-owned seed company.”
The growing season is a busy time for the Roelofs. They grow corn and soybeans plus care for large gardens. Jodi plants and sells produce, including pumpkins, squash and gourds.
Once the fall field work is done and the season changes, the couple looks forward to snowmobiling. They enjoy outdoor activities all year long from driving around and looking at crops to spending time at their cabin where they enjoy pontooning, water skiing and jet skiing with their kids.
The Roelofs also enjoys family dinners. They’re sharing one of their favorite recipes for Crunchy Pork Chops.