Mother’s Day Q&A with Gail Donkers and Jamie Beyer

Mother’s Day Q&A with Gail Donkers and Jamie Beyer
May 08, 2024

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

As Mother’s Day approaches on Sunday (at least try to call your mom if possible), is speaking with moms in ag, asking them to share memories about their own mothers and what lessons they’re passing down to their own children.

Two Minnesota farmers, Jamie Beyer (JB) and Gail Donkers are the interviewees in this piece.

Beyer and her husband Rodd grow soybeans, corn, sugarbeets and alfalfa near Wheaton, Minn.

Together they have three teenage daughters – Aspen (18), Paige (16) and Josie (15).

“Aspen is interested in business and finance. She’s on the cusp of leaving the nest and she is taking on more responsibility herself and looking forward to being out of the house,” Beyer told “Paige is a year out from leaving and is a little more interested in agriculture than the other two. And Josie will not be pushed around. We all agree she could be a very good attorney with the way she argues. We have three very independent daughters.”

Gail and her husband Jim grow cash crops and raise cattle, pigs and sheep in Faribault, Minn.

The Donkers family also includes their three children, 29-year-old Mitch, 27-year-old Abby, and Riley, who is 25.

“Mitch farms with us. He’s very soft spoken and is a doer,” she told “He likes to get his hands dirty and dream of what something can be. Abby is a kindergarten teacher and is our people person. Her school has a very diverse population and she knows everyone’s names. And Riley is our genetics kid. He loves to look at our breeding sheep program and see what we can do to make things better. He’s also a professional fitter and showman, so people hire him to do different things with their sheep.” Where were you when you found out you were pregnant for the first time? How did it make you feel?

JB: I don’t remember where I was, but we were definitely excited.

GD: I was in the doctor’s office. I was extremely happy and a little shocked. Describe the feeling of holding a newborn for the first time.

JB: It’s hard to beat. That calmness is so special.

GD: There’s nothing like it. It’s so heartwarming and you just want to let the world pass by and have a little baby in your arms. What’s the best part about being a farm mom?

JB: Seeing my kids realize how close as a family we are because our work and personal lives are so intertwined.

GD: You get to watch your kids get dirty and learn how to play with sticks and rocks and everything around them. What’s the hardest part about motherhood?

JB: Worrying that you’re making the right decision even though you’re likely bluffing. And hoping that what you’re guiding them through will make your kids successful.

GD: It doesn’t matter how old they are, your kids are your kids, and you just want to protect them. Whether it’s bumps and bruises or breakups and job losses, you just want to wrap them in bubble wrap, but you can’t.

The Donkers family

The Donkers family (Back left to right: Gail, Jim, and Mitch. Front left to right: Riley, Abby and Daiton, Mitch's wife.) What’s a misconception people have about motherhood?

JB: That all parenting falls into one category. There’s lots of different styles of parenting and as you have children you get to make those choices.

GD: People think moms just read books and eat bonbons all day. There’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes. What’s your mom’s name? What are some special memories you have with her?

JB: My mom's name is LuAnn. She made sure that, growing up, my brother and I spent a lot time with my grandparents and great aunts and uncles. As an adult, I can see how that experience influenced how I approach a life continued in a small community, where it is common to be close friends with folks of all ages.

GD: My mom’s name was Pat and she was a home economics teacher. She always made sure I knew how to cook or sew. I make kind of like a one-pot beef stroganoff and it reminds me of her and brings back great memories. What’s one lesson you learned from your mom that you try to teach your kids?

JB: Our rural population is sparse, so if a person wanted to rely on a peer group of like-age people, social encounters and relationships would be quite limited. My daughters have had the same experience growing up, and it tickles me how it ripples through their little lives. My oldest has a group of retired women that she plays poker with on Tuesday nights, and Thursday nights she plays cards with a number of retired men.

GD: You never know what other people are going through in life, so you have to give everybody grace. How has parenthood changed you?

JB: We’re not making plans for ourselves anymore. We’re making plans for the next generation.

GD: I’m a much better person now that I’m a parent. I used to have extremely high expectations of everybody. Since I’ve had kids I’ve come to appreciate everyone’s differences. What’s one thing all parents have in common no matter where they are in the world?

JB: A primal need to feed. Moms and parents want to give the most nutritious food they can afford and make sure no one goes to sleep with an empty stomach.

GD: Only wanting the best for your children. You’d sacrifice anything to make sure they have a better life than you had.

The Beyer family
The Beyer family (Left to right: Jamie, Josie, Aspen, Rodd and Paige). What’s one piece of advice you have for new moms?

JB: Don’t feel guilty when days are hard. Not every moment is enjoyable, and you’re going to make decisions that aren’t popular with your kids.

GD: Don’t sweat the small stuff. I remember I’d get stressed out folding towels because sometimes people would take two or three showers a day. One of my friends told me if folding towels takes time away from my family, not to do it. So now I don’t, and that gives me a little extra time to be present and not tucked away in a room.

Visit throughout the week for more Q&As with moms from the ag community.

Trish Cook, a hog farmer from near Winthrop, Iowa, says holding a newborn felt like a miracle and natural at the same time.

Sheila Hillmer, a beef producer from Del Bonita, Alta., says all parents are writing the rules as they go.

Josie Pashulka, a beef and grain farmer from Derwent, Alta., says holding a newborn baby brings a rush of love you never knew you could have.

And Angela Cammaert, a cattle and grain producer from Elgin County, Ont., says the hardest part about motherhood is not being a helicopter parent.

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