Author Archives: Missy

4th Annual Favorite Farmer Winner

Donald Dufner is the winner of the Favorite Farmer contest! His daughter nominated him. Teresa took so much time and poured so much love into her nomination that I wanted to share it. I actually grew up a few miles away from Donald and his family. He is known as the John Deere man as he collects them, builds them, fixes them and uses them for farming. You can guarantee that we will have lots of John Deeres in his photo shoot!

Here is the letter his daughter wrote:

Where does one begin to describe your favorite 84-year old farmer who will still oftentimes “run” to work?  His run takes him from the farmhouse to his workshop with the family dog. 

I’d like to nominate my dad, Donald Dufner, from rural Buxton ND, who has made a wonderful life with his bride, Sylvia, of 55 1/2 years on the very farm his parents established in 1934.

This farmer taught my three siblings and I the value of hard work.  The value of getting up at dawn and working well into the dark of night to get the job done.  There were days growing up where I didn’t understand why I was under the hot sun on an open tractor…all day long.  But as an adult, I now know those days then taught me how to persevere through when things get tough or uncomfortable.  Working sun-up to sun-down and then some, there would also be times when things didn’t go as planned.  I remember occasionally, I’d bruise my finger or run into something while working and his response would be “awww, just rub some dirt on it”.  Later in life, this statement has proven to me that while things may sting or burn along the way, you keep going and trudge through, because eventually it does get better.

Over the years, Donald and his wife farmed as much as 3,000 acres of various oats, grains, and edible beans.  One year it was popcorn. The thrill for us kids was watching it pop on the hot stove.  And let’s not forget alfalfa hay.  This crop requires diligence of perfection in order to sell quality alfalfa hay for horse feed.  There were at least three cuttings per summer making small square bales.  I remember Friday and Saturday nights when my high school friends were out at the movies, we were in the hay field loading the truck and trailer under the moonlight because it needed be baled just before the dew set in.   

And when he wasn’t in the field working, he was milking cows twice a day, every day, for 365 days of the year.  This provided all the dairy for our family and then some.  Along with chickens, my dad also had a way of sprinkling in a pet sheep or goat as presents.  Even if my mom said no, somehow one would always seem to show up.  And just this last summer, he convinced her it would be a good idea to adopt 24 goats so they could graze in the pasture.  This proved quite entertaining for him because people would stop by just to see him feed his new pets.  There were even a few times they had snuck out of the fence with one adventure, my dad rescuing them 15 miles away.

Alongside his farming, he also built a large collection of 2-cylinder John Deere tractors.  On the farm, there was a tractor for every job, EVERY SINGLE job.  While other farmers were upgrading to bigger and better 4-wheel drive cab tractors, he would sit in the field all day under the sunshine on his old 2-cylinder.  This proved quite thrifty for him in many ways, but most importantly he could fix the tractor himself whenever something broke.  As the years went on, if there wasn’t a tractor that fit his farming needs, he would just build it himself.  Spending his days going around and around, he would just design it in his head.  Outdoing his neighbors, he finally made his own 6-wheel drive workhorse that could make it almost 20 hours in the field without re-fueling.  He connected three of the largest 2-cylinder tractors together creating the “830 Special”.  And it even had a cab!   Neighbors would see him testing out new pieces of equipment and ask Sylvia, “Now what’s Donny up to?”  She would just laugh as she began to describe his latest invention.

Our weekends during the summer were filled traveling throughout the Red River Valley and Canada watching him tractor pull.  He started out with antique tractors and when he decided to enter the modified sector, he just designed and built two of his very own, The Green Goat and The Diggin’ Deere. He has 57 years of trophies and bragging rights of why John Deere is simply the best.

When you’re 84, you also get to play whenever you want.  This fall he organized a plowing bee on one of his fields where folks could bring their own tractor and plow to re-live an older time of life.   At one point, there were 13 different plows moving the dirt.  On another occasion one Sunday afternoon, he hosted a group of my friends who had never been to a “real” farm.  He was in his glory showing them his prize tractors and teaching them how to start a tractor manually by hand turning the fly-wheel.  Anyone who wanted to take the tractor for a drive, could spend as much time as they wanted navigating around the yard.

My dad will farm forever as the word, retirement, is not in his vocabulary.  You will find him out in the field helping my two brothers who farm, restoring old tractors, and still throwing hay bales with the best of them.  He loves to teach others his tricks of the trade and currently has two grandsons crop sharing some of his land. 

It’s the off season for farming right now but his work never ends in his shop as he’s busy planning for next year, fixing up tractors, and organizing or selling antique John Deere parts.  He also loves to spend time with his new shop kitten, Tiger.  Some days though, there might be more play than work but that that’s OK because he has earned it.

What do others say about this favorite farmer of mine?  His good friend and neighbor writes:  “There are moments in life when you meet people that truly intrigue you. Don Dufner is one of those men you will meet in your life that immediately makes you curious about “his story”. From my time with Don, over the past 10 years, I have come to know a man who values his family, loves his profession and hobbies, and never turns away from a little work. It amazes me when you learn about his God given gifts and life experiences. Don is creative, approachable, and genuinely someone to call a friend. The world needs more men like Don.” His face may be worn from the sun and hands leathered, oftentimes still stained with dirt but he truly represents the American farmer.   He has taught my brothers and I the value of hard work, the perseverance to finish a job, and the dedication to make things happen, even when things become difficult.  These are just a few of the many reasons why he is and always will be, my favorite farmer.

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    Millard: First Annual Favorite Farmer photo shoot, North Dakota Photographer

    I had so much fun reading through all of the submissions for the First Annual Mike Dale Favorite Farmer photo shoot but there were two that really spoke to my heart this year. One of those was Millard.
    Millards granddaughter nominated him. “I am nominating my grandpa Millard. My grandpa Millard and my grandma Betty live in Leonard, ND. They are 96 and 91 years old and still live in the house that my grandpa built for them and their 4 children years ago. when I was younger I would hear stories about how they lived in a basement while he was building this house for them. Over the years I’ve watched him, improve the siding, garden for my grandma and paint the inside to keep it updated. I have memories of sitting at the counter eating pancakes in the morning and then going for a ride on the lawnmower with my grandpa.”

    Some of the things that drew me to choose Millard were that at 96 years old he was still living in the house that he built, his wife’s name was Betty which also happens to be my grandma’s name and together Betty and Millard had been married 73 years.

    The original date that we had planned to take photos got rained out. A few days after that I received an email from Millards granddaughter that her grandma Betty had a stroke and was in the hospital. My heart sunk as I kept reading that Betty would not return to the farm and that Millard would be moved off of the farm as well in a few days.
    At that point there was nothing I could do about getting pictures of Betty and Millard together like I planned but I desperately wanted to still be able to give the family photos of Millard. These would be his last photos on the farm. He was getting moved out the next day.
    When I first pulled up to the house, he was sitting outside watching us drive in. His granddaughter told me he was waiting for Betty to come home. Cue the tears.
    It was all so familiar. MY grandma Betty also had health issues that caused the family to move her into assisted living while my grandpa sat at the farm waiting for her to come home. His dementia not allowing him to understand that she wasn’t coming home. We later had to also put my grandpa in assisted living with her.
    While I was at Millards farm, his wife, Betty called from the hospital. This smile is for her. “You just tell me if you need me to get you and I will come get you, ok?”
    I am so glad that I was able to meet Millard Justin and roam around his farm with him as he told me about Betty and their children. It was evident how much he loves her.
    Of course we had to get some photos with his granddaughter. <3
    An update from Millards granddaughter. “Betty still misses the farm. Millard is fine anywhere she is.”


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    Carter + Megan:: Hannaford, North Dakota Wedding Photographer

    Carter and Megan were married this past June in a fun little town called Hannaford, ND.

    North Dakota Wedding PhotographerI love all the little details of a wedding. Especially when they have sentimental meaning behind them like this little prayer book that Megan’s great grandma, grandma and mom used at their weddings before her.The first look is always one of my favorite moments of a wedding day. How gorgeous is this barn?! Megan grew up just down the road from it and has many fond memories of playing in it.Megan’s brother was her “best man”. It was so cute the way that Carter’s mom would look at him throughout the day. She always had that “I can’t believe my baby is getting married!” look in her eyes.
    Carter and Megan’s moms surprised them with this beautiful huge display next to their dance floor.It was a little chilly as the ceremony started. Clouds were hanging over head.It downpoured as the ceremony was wrapping up. Everyone scurried over to the big white tent  for the reception across the park.

    Ceremony and Reception: Hannaford Creek, Hannaford, ND
    Bride and Bridesmaid Dresses: Your Day by Nicole
    Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Halberstadts
    Florist: Floret and Foliage
    DJ: Marcus with Harmon Entertainment
    Catering: Carnivore Catering
    Cake/Desserts: Grand Hotel and Debbie Esslinger


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    • John Campbell Donald, congratulations on the North Dakota farmers award.  You have I am sure have helped many farmers with machinery breakdowns and will always be remembered for your genuine friendship. Karen and I sincerely wish you and Sylvia a Very Happy New Year, and your family.  God Bless you all.   John & Karen CampbellReplyCancel

    Arlen and Joanne :: North Dakota Farm Photographer

    At the end of my parents driveway in rural Buxton, ND sits a beautiful brick house with two of the sweetest people you will ever meet. I’ve known Arlen and Joanne my entire life but even before that, my family and their family were intertwined. Both of them can sit and tell me story upon story of working with my great grandparents on the same farm I grew up on. Infact, on a recent visit to their house, Arlen went out to one of his sheds and came back with a little metal stool that once used to belong to my great grandma, Annie. They both remember her sitting on that stool in the kitchen while peeling potatoes. That stool now sits next to my desk in my office.

    For the past several years now I have kept saying that I needed to go take their photos. Arlen and Joanne have been constants in my life and have always done anything they could do help and love my family. I wanted photos for their kids and grandkids to cherish for years to come. This past October we made it happen! It was a pretty nice day to wander around their yard and when we were all done, we all agreed it would be fun to keep the shoot and the photos a secret until Christmas time. I just wish I could have been a fly on the wall as their kids and grandkids all opened their photo collages on Christmas!

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    • JennaI love this so much 🙂 They are the best. Thank you so much for doing this, we definitely will cherish them forever. ReplyCancel

    • LaurenI teared up! This is such an amazing gift. We are so lucky to have since incredible human beings for grandparents! And now photos to cherish forever. ♥️♥️♥️ReplyCancel

    • Arlen and JoanneMissy thank you so much for all the kind words. When I think of you and your family I think of all the years we have known your family. Your Grandma Annie was one of the most kind hearted people I have ever known. My Dad and your great grandpa Alfred were good friends and worked together a lot back in the 30s. I have so many memories of helping Joe and He helping me…it was different times then but all good memories!ReplyCancel

    • Denae PaulsrudYou captured everything! The history, the love, the glint in the eyes just like when we found them kissing in the entry way when we were little which sent us running the other way yelling “YUUUUUCK!”
      These people and that farm mean the world to all of us. Thanks for the wonderful pictorial tribute. Tears indeed were welling, and thanks above for them.ReplyCancel

    • Ronald & Connie HallerMissy, you have captured the essence of forever love!  Joann and Arlen are the best people to have received the first honor of favorite farmer.  What a cherished gift for their family!  ReplyCancel

    • Ashley JohnsonThis was the best gift I have ever received!!!! You captured everything I love most about these two. What a wonderful surprise!!!! Love you grandma and grandpa!!!!ReplyCancel

    Winners of the First Annual Favorite Farmer contest!

    Thank you so much to all the people who sent in their nominations for the First Annual Favorite Farmer photo contest. I was so blown away by how many of you took time to sit down and pour your hearts out and let me get to know a bit more about your loved ones. This contest means so much to me. It’s one small way that I can honor my dad’s memory. My dad was my favorite person to photograph and because he was, I have a ton of photos of him. Now that he is gone, those photos are everything to me. I’m so excited to be able to gift another family photos of their loved one.
    As hard as I tried, I couldn’t narrow it down to just one winner this year! Millard and Bill were each chosen for a free photo shoot on their farm! Millard was nominated by his grand daughter and Bill by his daughter. Both of them wrote touching stories that made me cry but also reminded me so much of my family and what we have gone through the past few years with losing my grandpa and then my dad.
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      Fargo, North Dakota