Going above and beyond: Moose Lake family named Carlton County's Farm Family of the Year

Growing up on the dairy farm helped instill a strong work ethic in his children, Mark Konu said.

Mark Konu (pictured) and his uncle Gerry Konu were named Carlton County's 2021 Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota Extension. Mark began working on the farm in 1980 and Gerry started in 1962. (Jamey Malcomb /

For most of their lives, the moos of cattle have provided the soundtrack for the work of Mark and Gerry Konu.

Gerry started working on the farm near Moose Lake in 1962 after his military service ended and his nephew, Mark, joined the operation in 1980. The dairy farm was founded by Gerry’s father, Theodore Konu, more than 100 years ago, with Gerry and Mark working more than 80 hours a week for much of that time.

Recently, the University of Minnesota Extension announced it had named the Konus the Carlton County’s 2021 Farm Family of the Year.

The Konus have hosted students from the University of Minnesota Duluth’s pharmacy and pre-med programs to witness first-hand the dangers of farming, and Mark served on the board of the local chapter of the Minnesota Dairy Herd Improvement Association. The MDHIA offers quality service to dairy producers to assist them in their farming needs at a “cost-effective level,” according to the organization's website.


Mark Konu looks out on land his family has farmed for more than 100 years. Mark and his uncle Gerry Konu were recently named Carlton County's 2021 Farm Family of the Year. (Jamey Malcomb /

“The Konu family has been a long-standing part of the Carlton County farming community by helping the community learn about the dairy industry through the efforts of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association and on-the-farm activities for local families,” University of Minnesota Extension educator Tarah Young said in an email. “Mark and Gerry have gone above and beyond to bring attention to not only dairies in northeastern Minnesota, but the agriculture industry in general.”

Mark said after several years of losing money on the dairy farm, he sold off the cattle and auctioned off the dairy equipment. It was difficult to produce milk at a cost that was competitive with larger producers or hire young people to help on the farm when places like Kwik Trip are starting employees with no experience at more than $11 an hour.

“It’s been kind of quiet around here with no cows,” Mark said.

After selling the herd in 2019, Mark began farming about 600 acres of hay each year and produces about 1,500 bales to sell to local livestock producers. He’s already sold his entire crop this year and the current drought is hampering his ability to make more.

“If I could make a lot more hay, I could make a lot more money,” Mark said.

Mark Konu's cattle barn now houses the hay he farms and sells to local livestock producers. The Konus raised dairy cattle on the farm until 2019. (Jamey Malcomb /


Mark went to school to become a mechanic, but he found working a set schedule for someone else difficult.

“I hated working the 9-5, because I was always watching the clock and I was just working for a paycheck,” he said. “With farming, I would work 16-hour days and never really look at the clock and I was working for myself.”

Mark also said farming has been a benefit to all four of his children. They all “hated doing chores” on the farm when they were young, but today they retain a connection to agriculture through gardens, keeping chickens and making honey at their homes. His daughter, Andrea Anderson, even runs an apple tree farm in Carlton with her husband, Dustin Anderson.

“They are all hard workers,” Mark said. “I think they got that work ethic from the farm.”

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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