6/10/2009 – News
Volume 126, Number 19
Mwkn grad meets VP and wife
Editor’s note: The following article concerns Maj. Tod Fenner, a 1988 graduate of Minnewaukan High School. He is the son of Mary Fenner Neis of Devils Lake and the late Melvin Fenner. Tod has a wife, Merilee and two children, four-year-old Peyton and two-year-old Paige. His siblings are Ann Sears of Maddock, Myron Fenner of Minto, Brian Fenner of Lafayette, La. and Ellen Fenner of Minot.
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden visited a handful of Colorado Army National Guard troops from the 117th Space Battalion at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado May 27. The couple’s son is a Delaware National Guardsman and as a result Dr. Biden has been highly involved in family readiness events and was interested in speaking to the Colorado Guardsmen about their military experiences.
Biden was particularly interested in Army Space Support Team 26, a small contingent of 117th Soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq. ARSST 26, a six-person unit made up of 117th Space Battalion Soldiers, will support the II Marine Expeditionary Force with space assets starting in early July. They will be replacing ARSST 27, also of the 117th, which has been in the theater since September of 2008.
The soldiers are bringing space-based support capabilities and products to the warfighters on the ground, in this case, the Marines of Multi-National Force – West.
"It’s our job to understand space operations capabilities and leverage those capabilities to best support the mission," said team leader Maj. Tod Fenner.
Such products and capabilities include up-to-date satellite imagery and GPS accuracy for munitions, communications and space weather support, all of which will ensure the most accurate information is available to combatant commanders.
"We’ll paint a picture of where a convoy may need to drive or where we may need to perform operations," said Fenner.
The 117th is also affiliated with the Army’s 1st Space Brigade, which is part of the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.
Vice President Joe Biden talks with members of ARSST 26 during a visit to Colorado Springs, Colo. on May 27. Seen in the back ground, left to right, are: Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president; Minnewaukan High School graduate Maj. Tod Fenner, team leader; Maj. Janet Schoenberg, space operations officer; Staff Sgt. James Smith, intelligence analyst; and Spc. David Wilde, satellite communications. ARSST 26 is part of the 117th Space Battalion, Colorado Army National Guard, 1st Space Brigade. They provide space-based products and capabilities to the warfighter.
Benson County’s only commercial winery located near Knox
BY DAN FELDNER Minot Daily News
About 15 miles east of Rugby lies Knox, a tiny prairie town with only a handful of people. Four miles south of that is Dakota Hills Winery and Vineyard, a small family-owned winery in the middle of nowhere that thousands of people flock to every year no matter how out of the way it is for them.
The owners of the winery, Brian Cochran and his wife, Loveta run it along with their 8-1/2-year-old son, Caleb. Cochran is a retired dairy farmer from Washington who moved to North Dakota with his family in the spring of 2002.
Cochran said he moved his family to North Dakota because Washington was getting a little too crowded for their tastes. Along with the peace and quiet, he also noted they wanted to raise their youngest son, Caleb, in an environment similar to the one they were able to raise their oldest son, Josh, who is now 32 and enlisted in the Air Force. "Basically shared values, I guess, would be a good way to look at it.
Urban sprawl had made dairy farming in the part of Washington State that we were from difficult," Cochran said. "And we wanted to be in a place where we felt that you could not feel so intimidated by people moving in so close to you.
"We wanted to have good relationships with our neighbors. We do, we’re a mile away from each other. It works out great for everybody," he said with a laugh.
Cochran had been to Bismarck on trips before, but that was about the limit of his exposure to North Dakota. Once he and his family settled down in their new home, however, he liked it so much that many of his other family members have moved here as well.
"Since then my mother has moved here, my sister and her family, my niece and her family, they’ve all relocated here from California," he said.
While many of the visitors Cochran gets to his winery can’t help but comment on the breathtaking location, not everyone shares that view of the farm, which is about as far off the beaten path as it’s possible to get. Surrounded by water, grass and the prairie wind, it takes a special kind of person to be truly at home in a place where animals easily outnumber the people.
"When we first opened to the public on Mother’s Day in 2006, the first carload of people that came in were from out-of-state; Wisconsin or something like that. And their first statement was, ‘Wow, how did you find such a beautiful place?’" he said. "Well, there were wild ducks and geese out there in the water, (there’s) a lake on three sides, it’s pretty with the flowers.
"The next carload came from Rugby, it was some local people. And they were friends of the people that we bought the place from. They get out of the car while the others are still standing around with their jaws dropped and they say, ‘Why in the world did you move out here?’" Cochran said with a laugh. "It is a little bit about one’s perspective, you know? And we choose to think of it, how did we find such a beautiful place? And I think attitude has a lot to do with it."
Cochran said North Dakota has a lot to offer, and that people are discovering the state all the time. He said ample business opportunities and the many diverse types of lifestyles offered — both rural and urban — are what pull people in for good once they get that first taste of North Dakota living.
While the Cochrans came to North Dakota to retire, Brian Cochran admitted it is more of a working retirement. Both he and his wife had ideas concerning how they would spend their golden years, and in a way they both got their wish.
North Dakota might not seem like the ideal place to start up a winery, but wine seemingly flows through the blood of Cochran’s family, and his prior experience with wineries in California gave him the knowledge to start a successful enterprise in the heart of wheat country.
"That (a winery) was kind of plan ‘B.’ Plan ‘A’ was to just semi-retire and go fishing, and raise our boy, and have a you-pick raspberry farm. At least that was my wife’s plan," Cochran said. "My plan was the winery. I was raised in Santa Rosa, Calif., worked at Gallo (Winery, through a contractor) as an adult. My family, a lot of them worked for Corbell Winery, so it was something that I had done over the years. It was something I might want to do as kind of a semi-retirement venture."
They started planting fruit the first year they moved to North Dakota, although most of the plantings went in the next year, in 2003. Because of the drastic difference in climates, they didn’t stick to just the tried-and-true fruit varieties used back in California. Cochran tried new varieties, and is still trying different ones to this day to keep his wine flavors fresh and exciting.
"We’re still planting, as we try different grape varieties. We’ve pulled some and planted new varieties," he said. "So there’s a fair amount of research that we’ve embarked upon on developing new (wines) for this climate. So it’s worked out pretty well."
They were licensed in 2005, and opened the doors to Dakota Hills Winery and Vineyard in the spring of 2006. Many wineries supplement the fruit grown in their own vineyards with varieties from other sources as well. Cochran said they’re probably the only winery in North Dakota where 100 percent of the fruit used in the wine is home grown. Along with grapes, he also uses more local fruit varieties such as crab apples, raspberries and rhubarb.
Because Cochran uses so much of their fruit for the winery, his wife sometimes has to look to outside sources for her own uses.
"On occasion we do buy some (fruit) from disabled people, but I don’t think we’ve used any of it in the wine for a long time. I take so much of it for the wine that my wife has to have some fruit to make jams," Cochran said with a laugh.
While all of Cochran’s wine is popular because he sells out every year — which is usually around 5,000 bottles — there are a few flavors in his lineup that stand out. The Raspberry, Raspberry Blackberry and Jostaberry wines would be difficult to find anywhere else, Cochran said, while Dakota Red is his flagship wine.
A new flavor for this year is Raspberry with Dandelion Petal. They are also working on a sparkling wine, and brandy is something they could make in the future if legislation allowing distilleries in the state is signed into law.
Because all the fruit used in the wine is grown in their vineyard, Cochran can freely experiment with different varieties and combinations of fruit to find new and unique flavors that offer a distinct taste of North Dakota.
He said it’s this willingness to be creative and experiment outside of established industry recipes that make the wine at local wineries such as his and a few others in North Dakota stand out from wine that is either mass produced by large companies or made from kits that can be picked up anywhere.
"That’s one thing about artisan wineries or craft wines, you’ll find the individualistic type of person usually involved in it. You know, they’re not out to prove anything to anybody other than probably themselves about developing some different wines or really staying with it," he said. "You know, trying to develop things, and not walk in lockstep with, necessarily industry trends or everybody else. They find their little niche, and people find them."
To help promote North Dakota wineries that try to offer their customers more than just another red or white wine, Dakota Hills Winery and Vineyard banded together with Pointe of View Winery near Burlington and Bear Creek Winery by Fargo to form North Dakota Winery Trail in 2007. Cochran said the owners of all three wineries share many of the same values when it comes to wine-making and serving their customers, and decided to pool their resources together in an effort to more easily let the public know about their wineries and the many unique aspects that differentiate them from the competition.
"We recognized . . . that there was a need to present a choice to the wine-seeking public in a way that differentiated ourselves from wineries in malls, other types of wineries," Cochran said. "The general public’s concept of what a winery is is what we wanted to present . . . where fruits are raised, all or part, for the wines that the winery made. And it was most importantly in a rural setting, and that the attitudes and practices of the wineries were very much people-orientated."
Other commitments have limited the time and energy each of the wineries have been able to contribute to North Dakota Winery Trail so far, but Cochran said this year they will be making an concerted effort to change that.
Things like sanctioning wine festivals, handing out flyers and having a bigger online presence are some of the ways Cochran said they will try to let the public know about their wineries. Although the Web site, (www.ndwinerytrail.com), is pretty basic right now, Cochran said it has still been able to drive people to Dakota Hills’ Web site, (www.dakotahillswinery.com), as well as the Web sites of the other two member wineries, and has also increased the foot traffic to Dakota Hills. "It has been successful, though. It has driven a lot of people to our Web sites off of that, and we’ve had a lot of people stop in," he said.
It isn’t just the Web site that is giving Dakota Hills on online presence, either. Cochran said there are hundreds of hits that come up when people do a search for his winery online. Besides just information about the winery itself or the types of wine it produces, there are also videos and pictures from families who have stopped at the winery while on vacation. Video-sharing sites like YouTube and photograph-sharing sites like Flickr might be an even better way to let people know about the winery than its own Web site.
"And there’s pictures of Loveta with turkeys that we had here that have already been in the freezer," Cochran said with a laugh. "The fun we have with all the people who come here, I mean it’s a kick . . . It’s so much fun, especially people who are on vacation."
Recommending each other’s wineries was something all three were already doing anyway, so the new venture together just kind of formalized things.
"We were already sending people to one another’s wineries," Cochran said. "If somebody was here, I’d send them to Minot or Fargo depending on which way they were going, because we trust one another with those people."
It was that trust between each other that was the key to forming North Dakota Winery Trail. Cochran said he wouldn’t send anyone — whether it was a first-time customer or someone who visited his winery often — to another winery if he didn’t trust the owners to treat the people well and offer only the highest quality of wine.
"So that really was the basis . . . we trusted each other as wine makers and we wanted to see each other succeed, so we were sending people back and forth," he said. "So this seemed like a more organized way of doing that on a prolonged basis."
Cochran said North Dakota Winery Trail has already been a success simply because it has allowed the owners of the three wineries to get to know each other better, which has further enhanced their enjoyment of the winery business.
"We’ve been truly blessed to be able to do it (and) be successful at it. And then the camaraderie with the two other wineries has been very encouraging," he said. "Not that friends agree on 100 percent of everything, but we truly respect them and enjoy their company."
Much is made about value-added agriculture, and how it can make a product more appealing to customers. Wheat can be harvested, cleaned and ground into flour; corn can be processed and used in an ethanol plant, with the remains being turned into cattle feed; and chokecherries and raspberries can be picked, washed, pressed and aged into wine.
While Cochran said that concept is definitely important to the wine industry, he believes an even more important aspect of the business is adding value to the relationships of everyone who visits his winery.
"The point is what happens when they’re here, and what happens when they’re talking to one another when they’re driving down the driveway leaving," he said. "Are they saying, ‘(Eh),’ or are they saying, ‘Wow, hey that was a kick?’ Are their kids all happy? You know, it is a family-friendly environment, that’s a good part of it.
"And so that relationship part is central to what we think about as far as value-added agriculture. You are adding value, and value isn’t just what you got for your money in the terms of the product. It’s who’s behind the product, what’s behind the product."
Tourism is an important part of the winery industry, and to owners like Cochran, it might be the most important part. Not because of the sales that are generated, but because of the relationships that are formed.
Cochran said he doesn’t view the people who visit Dakota Hills as potential customers, but as visitors who deserve to be treated as friends and shown every courtesy. This view is shared by the entire family, whether the people who visit the winery buy a bottle or not.
"We never refer to people as customers. If you ask my son how many customers did you have here yesterday, he would say, ‘We had X number of visitors,’" he said. "Whether they buy wine or not is not the issue. I mean obviously if they didn’t we wouldn’t be doing this . . . But there’s more to it than ‘cha-ching.’ "
There is no better evidence of this philosophy than a picture hanging on the wall of the wine-tasting room. It features a freshly prepared meal of duck and wild rice spread on a plate, surrounded by bread on the sides and a pile of mixed vegetables in the back. Behind the plate sits a bottle of Dakota Hills’ Jostaberry wine. The food was so hot when the picture was taken that a thick haze of steam rises off the plate, adding the perfect finishing touch to a mouth-watering meal.
"This was duck that was harvested locally, wild rice from Minnesota, and our Jostaberry wine, from a Wisconsin hunter who sent us the photograph," Cochran said. "You see this and it’s representative of something. We all get bills in the mail everyday, (and) we get so many thank you cards and actual letters, not to mention e-mail."
Cochran said they get cards and letters with pictures people took of their visit to the winery throughout the year, not just during the busy summer season. Long after a visitor’s bottle is empty of wine, they still have all the memories of their time at the winery, and that’s what’s most important to Cochran.
"It’s really all about people, you know, that’s the bottom line. I tell people, we say it on our Web site, you can buy thousands of different wines at thousands of different places, and we don’t take for granted that you choose to buy it from us," Cochran said. "That’s a responsibility that we have, and we’re not gonna take that for granted."
It isn’t simply the wine that brings over 3,000 visitors to the winery every year. While there are tours of the winery and the tasting room where every type of wine can be sampled for free, there are also plenty of other things to do as well. Besides the winery, there is also a farm and barnyard zoo that families can tour along with the vineyards and orchards, a picnic area and bird watching opportunities.
Because there is much more to do than simply tasting wines, the winery is open every day year-round, although the free tours and wine tasting are limited to May through December.
The barnyard zoo includes llamas; horses; miniature horses, donkeys, goats and chickens; ducks; geese; weeder geese; turkeys; peacocks and guineas.
While it is more of a viewing zoo than a petting zoo, Cochran said that still doesn’t stop the llamas from stretching their heads over the fence to give anyone brave enough to get close a sloppy kiss.
"How many thousands of people have stood there with that llama (like) it did with my wife?" Cochran said. " ‘Hey honey, the llama’s kissing him!’ (And then) it’s on YouTube. You can’t stop them."
Caleb Cochran, left, sits with his mother, Loveta, and father, Brian in the wine tasting room of Dakota Hills Winery and Vineyard southwest of Knox. The Cochrans retired from dairy farming in Washington and opened a winery in North Dakota. They’ve lived in Pleasant Lake Township of Benson County since 2002 and are currently producing about 5,000 bottles of wine annually. To get to the winery, go to mile marker 222 west of Knox, turn south and follow the signs.
EDC provides funds
Steve Jorgenson, left, of the Leeds EDC Gaming Committee, presents Rick Darling of the Leeds Park Board with a donation of $13,000.
The York Park Board received $500 from Steve Jorgenson of the Leeds EDC Gaming Committee. Receiving the check is Linda Papachek, left, of the park board.
Jorgenson presents Patty Haagenson of the Leeds School with a donation of $250 from Leeds EDC gaming proceeds.
VB camp at Maddock
The sixth annual Kids Volleyball Camp was held at the Maddock Public School June 1 and 2 for girls entering grades three through seven. Athletes attending the camp came from Leeds, Harvey, New Rockford, Carrington and Maddock. Camp coaches were JoLynn Fautsch, Bridget Lunde, Lorissa Green, Shana Tollerud, Laura Taylor and Ashley Foss.
The camp focused on basic volleyball skills, vocabulary, drills, games, teamwork and sportsmanship.
Third, fourth and fifth grade girls attending the camp are pictured.
In the front, left to right, are Coach Ashley Foss and Coach Bridget Lunde. Middle row: Cassidy Clifton, Cassidy Holth, Kenzie Randle, Kerringten Lee, Marissa Lunde, Ashley Schuster, Abigail Grossman and Carli Lies. Back row: Coach JoLynn Fautsch, Alexis Lies, Taylor Foss, Faith Dosch, Grace Nybo, Emily Sears, Hannah Pierson, LinElla Pistol and Coach Lorissa Green.
Girls entering grades six and seven who attended the camp are, front row, left to right, Nikara Nelsen, Samantha Fite, Heather Tollefson, Hailey Hansen, Ahna Demester and McKenzie Lautt. Middle row: Coach Ashley Foss, Katelyn Nelsen, Santana Schneider, Nicole Erickson, Kaitlyn Kost, Paige Johnson, Kristi Medalen, Nora Duren and Coach JoLynn Fautsch. Back row: Coach Lorissa Green, Coach Bridget Lunde, Kenadi Lee, Kaylee Tollerud, Lexi Gigstad, Kayla Melaas, Ashley Risovi, Megan Olson, Hailey Kallenbach and Coach Shana Tollerud.