Growing up, Joel Mathiowetz only dreamed of doing one thing.
He wanted to be a farmer.
Calling the Morgan area home, the 1998 Cedar Mountain High School graduate was involved in 4-H and FFA, and in those organizations he developed skills that would help to prepare him for farm life.
Yet, Mathiowetz also recognized full-time farming might not be part of his future – at least not right away.
“The late 90s was a challenging time for farmers,” said Mathiowetz, who opted to earn a degree in ag business management from South Dakota State University, graduating in 2002.
Ever the learner, Mathiowetz also took advantage of a program through St. Cloud State University that allowed him to study abroad in England for a semester where he experienced its culture, history, agriculture and rural way of life.
Mathiowetz was not able to return to the farm right out of college, and he began his life in the working world as the 4-H program coordinator for Renville County.
He then went on to work for seven years at Farm Credit Services before taking on a role as a consultant.
Mathiowetz ventured out on his own becoming a crop insurance agent and opening his own business known as Farm Gate Insurance Company, and it was during that time when Mathiowetz was able to fully invest in his dream of farming.
Today Mathiowetz farms with his dad, brother and two uncles raising corn, soybeans and peas.
In 2012, Joel and his wife, Amanda, were married, and they have two children, Leo who is three-and-a-half, and Lucy, who is one.
As the Mathiowetz family has grown, one of the values that has grown with them is the importance of being involved and the emphasis on diversity in one’s life as well as on the farm.
As part of the fifth generation of farming, Mathiowetz is constantly looking for ways to improve the family’s operation and to seek out practices that demonstrate good stewardship of the land.
After all, the next generation of the family farm, including nephews and his own children, will likely be part of the family farm in some way.
For Mathiowetz, who is involved in a variety of ag-related organizations, a key piece of sustaining the farm into the future is education. That, he said, means doing what he can to get the word out to the public, especially those who have little, if any, connection to agriculture to dispel the myths and to offer some perspective from the point of view of the farmer.
“Education is what it is all about,” Mathiowetz said.
Mathiowetz is the executive director of the Minnesota Ag in the Classroom Foundation, and through that effort helps to raise funds for the program that was set up to provide free educational curriculum re-sources for teachers K-12 that can be incorporated into their classroom and have a focus on agriculture literacy.
He also is involved with the Agriculture Future of America, which provides learning experiences for students, as well as an annual conference each year.
The national program is one that is supported locally, and each year a student is sponsored by the Redwood Area Chamber ag committee. That student is able to attend the conference.
For the past several years Mathiowetz has attended the conference as a speaker.
The Mathiowetz family is part of the Farm Bureau in Redwood County where Joel has also served in leadership positions over the years.
With others Mathiowetz has been able to be involved in the “I Met a Farmer” tour, which offers an opportunity for people to visit various farms in the Redwood County area to learn from the farmers what they do and why they do it.
Amanda, an art teacher, now stays at home with their children, but she also has opportunities to pursue her interests in art in various ways, including providing education experiences for groups and doing some freelance work.
Telling the stories of agriculture is a passion for the Mathiowetz family, simply because they know the survival of what they do is up to them. They know farmers need to be their own advocates, as they speak up to help the public understand what really happens on the farm.
For these and many other reasons the Joel and Amanda Mathiowetz family has been named the 2019 Redwood County Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota Extension Service.