10 Feb Dennis and Mabel Friesen Chosen as McPherson Chamber Farm Family of the Year
Dennis, a Nebraska native, and Mabel began farming in the county in 1981 when they moved from Nebraska to McPherson to take over Mabel’s home farm when her father, Lewis Nelson, retired. Dennis and Mabel have expanded the farm – an alfalfa, milo and wheat operation when they took over –transitioning over the years from a full-tillage operation to no-till and adding corn and soybeans to the cropping rotation. They have practiced no-till for about 15 years.
The farm is primarily dry-land, with one irrigated field utilizing subsurface irrigation. The conversion from gravity flood irrigation to subsurface was made 20 years ago when the Friesens added the field to their operation. Alfalfa has been a primary crop for the Friesens. Because of his work with alfalfa, Dennis received the first Kansas Grassland and Forage award. He was also a recipient of the 2004 Bankers Award for Soil Conservation selected by the McPherson County Conservation District.
Dennis said changes in technology and seed genetics have made significant differences in how he has managed his farm from 1981 until today.
In addition to grain and forage crops, over the years he has managed 90 honeybee hives, collecting the honey, and fed a few steers when his children were in 4-H as a shared project. Attendees at local events also know him for his BBQ prowess and homemade ice cream – a fun side business, which he considers a hobby.
In addition to farming full-time, Dennis worked part-time for McPherson College for a number of years after they moved to McPherson. Mabel has retired as the Director of Nursing at Showalter Villa in Hesston. Dennis considers himself semi-retired as they are transitioning the operation over to their son, Matt, and his wife, Daisy. Matt works as an IT person for MKC, and Daisy is a potter and owner of Friesen Art.
The Friesens believe in being involved in their community. Both Dennis and Mabel have taken active roles in their church, McPherson Church of the Brethren, serving in a number of capacities including local leadership and responding to disaster areas to help with clean up missions. Mabel helps with secretarial work in the church office. She also volunteers at the hospital and the Opera House.
Dennis is a member of the McPherson Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Ag-related committee. He is a past member of the McPherson County Extension Board, Kansas Farm Management-SC Board of Directors and the MKC Member Relations Committee. Dennis has volunteered with Farm Safety Days events and both Dennis and Mabel served as 4-H leaders when their children were involved. Dennis served as the president of the McPherson County Farmers Union group. They are currently active with the Community Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners volunteering for the meals and serving on the board.
In addition to Matt, the couple also has a daughter, Joletta Friesen, who lives with her family in Liberty, MO. They have five grandchildren.
The Friesen farming operation is a true family business.
“It took both of us to make this go,” Friesen said, “And now we are helping Matt as he takes it over.”
-written by Cindy Baldwin, Baldwin Creative Services/ The Country Register-Kansas
McPherson Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee
See more photos from the 2022 Farm Forum here.