Category Archives: Personal

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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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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    My Favorite Farmer :: My Dad

    My dad made this goofy face where he would raise one eyebrow. As he got older, we would giggle over the fact that his skin now took longer to go back to “normal” after he would make it. He could do all sorts of weird faces and they would always make me laugh. I swear no one will ever be able to make me laugh like he did, whether it was because he was making yet another weird face, picking on mom or just being annoying in general. He made me laugh from deep down in my gut and at times he made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t breathe or thought I would pee my pants. I miss laughing like that.

    He used to always say “I am who I am and if you don’t like it then you can shove it up your ass crosswise.” I LOVED who he was. I loved that he said what he was thinking and didn’t care how it came across to others. I loved that he got a kick out of intimidating people by his big and scruffy exterior. I love even more that anyone who knew him, knew he wasn’t scary at all and had a giant heart. I loved that he would do anything for his girls, usually while grumbling about it so that we knew just how much of a “pain in the ass” we were. I love that he would go with my mom almost every single weekend to visit her mother in the nursing home. I love that he stepped in and did whatever he could to help while his brother was fighting for his life. And when I met my now husband, I love how my husband became my dad’s “son” and best friend.
    I can think of a million reasons why I still need him here and not one as to why God had to take him when he did. This Saturday will be one year since his death and this week has been filled with tears, days of not wanting to see or talk to anyone and the heaviest heart knowing I can never wrap my arms around his neck again.

    He wasn’t just my favorite farmer. He was my dad. There are only a few more days to nominate your favorite farmer. I’ve spent hours reading over all the submissions so far. Each story has made me cry or laugh and there have been so many that remind me of my own family. Nominate your Favorite Farmer by emailing and telling me why he or she is your favorite farmer. The contest ends at midnight on December 1.

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      Favorite Farmer Contest!


      Today is exactly 11 months since my dad passed away which means that the big 1 year anniversary is coming up soon. I wanted to do something to honor him. Something that would keep his memory going. My dad was my favorite person to photograph. His face was wrinkled perfection and his beard was so photogenic. My favorite place to photograph my dad was on the farm. There was just something extra special about those photos. So….I want to give away a session. This isn’t a family session where everyone gets dressed up. I want to photograph your farmer doing what he does best, farm. Whether he is out in the field, working in the shop or roaming around the farm….that’s what I want to capture. If you have a favorite farmer, someone you love more than life itself, then nominate him. I can’t promise he will love you for doing this but I can promise you will love having those photos of him.
      Your farmer can be retired too and still live on the farm. He does not have to be actively farming right now to be entered.
      How to enter:
      1. Email a photo and at least a paragraph on who you are nominating and why he is your favorite farmer to Make sure to put ‘FAVORITE FARMER’ in the email subject line.
      2. Be sure to include where his farm is located in your email. Bonus points if you include a picture of the farm.
      3. Share this post
      Winner will be drawn on December 1, 2018!
      **Actual shoot can take place anytime in 2019.
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        Happy Birthday Dad

        It’s not true, it really doesn’t get easier with time. All time does is remind me that my dad is really gone and he’s not coming back. Time will eventually try to fade my memories of him but time will never lessen the pain of not having him here.

        Today my dad would have turned 67.

        He needed more time. WE needed more time. I needed more time.

        Some of my earliest memories of him include fishing, the lake and camping but some of my favorite memories of him now that he is gone are just the days we spent sitting doing nothing. The things I miss most are all those moments that when you are in them, you really don’t pay much attention to. I miss seeing him walk across the lawn, I miss the sound of him snoring in his recliner, I miss his annoying coughing in the morning, I miss his weird faces, I miss being able to call him up to ask him who someone is because he knew EVERYONE.

        My dad loved that people’s initial reaction to him was usually fear. He was a big guy with a hairy face and always dressed in his dirty work clothes. About 15 years ago or so, I was working at a printing company in Fargo when my dad had to come and fix my car. He walked in the front door and rather than our receptionist greeting him, she snuck to the back and asked that one of the guys go out to see what the “scary homeless guy” wanted before she called the cops. He got a kick out of that but his tough scary dude persona ended the minute you really got to know him. When you really got to know him, you would find out that he was just a teddy bear with a heart of gold. And he was….if there is one thing I hope to have gotten from my dad….it’s his heart. He was a people person. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. While preparing for his benefit back in May, I went around to area businesses to pick up their donations for the benefit. Thinking I was just going to go in and out of all the businesses to grab their donations….I was tears as each person stopped to tell me something about how great of a guy my dad was and what he meant to them. I soaked in each word they spoke.

        Dad was our hero. All three of his girls will tell you, he was always there…no matter what, when, where or why. He would drive in actual blizzards to pick us up or get us where we needed to be. When our cars broke down, he was always our first call. When my sister wanted to put her house up for sale, he drove to Colorado to help her get it ready to sell. He showed his love by doing. Perhaps one of my most treasured memories is leading up to my wedding day. He wasn’t much on hugging (unless it was my mom) and really never said I love you (unless mom forced him to) but he ran himself ragged preparing the farm for my wedding. The day before the wedding, I remember stopping to watch him as he buzzed between things, making sure they were exactly as I wanted. Seeing how hard he worked to make my wedding day perfect has been one of my favorite memories since that day.

        Five years ago, my dad finally got a son when I met my now husband, Jesse. Apparently Jesse didn’t like my dad at first. As I mentioned, my dad loved intimidating people by his size and looks. Fairly early on in our relationship though my dad and my husband became the best of friends. He had his boy to buy tools for, go fishing and hunting with and do all the things he dreamed of getting to do with a son having had three girls. I secretly loved that those two would gang up on my mom and I. I loved that my dad would ditch me to take Jesse fishing or that he would only want Jesse to come into town with him from the farm. I loved that while I was gone all day to photograph a wedding, Jesse chose to spend the day with my dad. Without question, one of the hardest parts of losing my dad is that Jesse lost his best friend. I’m angry that Jesse only got five years with him. I got 38 and that wasn’t enough. They had so many more years of hunting and fishing to do.

        My husband tells me often that I am a “mini Mike”. I’m not sure he always meant it to be a positive thing. haha! To me though, it is a compliment. My dad was SUCH a good man. When you die, people don’t remember what your job title was, how much money you made or how many trophies or promotions you got. People remember your heart. They remember that you were a good person. They remember that you loved even if you didn’t show it the way a person typically would. My dad was one of the best people I will ever know. His death will always leave a giant void in my life but how lucky am I to have had a dad that I can say that about?

        Dad….I hope you are always going to “haunt” me from Heaven. I’ve always needed you and that doesn’t stop now. Giant hugs, birthday kisses and messy head rubs to say I love you. You were my photography muse and my favorite guy. I hate not having you here.

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          Fargo, North Dakota