THE JOURNEY HOME
COUPLE RETURNS TO THE FARM TO BUILD A FUTURE AG ATTRACTION.
Jeremiah James Korfe and his music have been on television shows, in films, and in ads. He’s performed with Florida Georgia Line and dined with the Prince of Monaco. His fiancée, Kalie Wright, has worn many pageant crowns and walked a New York fashion show runway as well as the red carpet of an NFL Super Bowl ceremony.
In spite of the exciting lives they lead, home is Eagle Bend, Minnesota. It’s where Korfe farms 2,000 acres, raises 40 beef cows (plus calves), and partners with his parents. It’s also where Wright welcomes new baby calves and helps Korfe however she can by keeping records, running for parts, or pitching hay and manure out of the old dairy barn.
Locally, they are known as the couple who bought the youth pastor’s farm and are transforming the biggest barn in the area into a wedding destination.
returning to his roots
The youngest boy of 10, Korfe never planned to return to Minnesota where his parents milked cows and raised pigs. Violin lessons, drums, and choir at school, guitar at Bible camp, and two CDs with a local band – all before the age of 18 – nurtured his passion for music. At 21, he moved to Los Angeles to become a rock musician. It wasn’t easy, but his rural upbringing helped him find his way. At his first off-farm job stocking grocery store shelves, he stepped up in an emergency to operate a forklift and was instantly promoted.
The promotion put him in contact with an MTV employee, which led to a position with the company. While doing odd jobs, he studied how to be a camera operator, became an assis- tant, and finally a cameraman. All the while, he honed his skills with other musicians at a megachurch, on tours, and on television.
Korfe was on his way when he signed a deal with a record label. Then the label folded in 2008. Shortly after, the farm called him home.
“Swine flu hit, and it was all hands on deck,” he recalls.
After getting through the farm crisis, Korfe spent a couple more winters in Los Angeles and farmed the rest of the year before he had an epiphany. In addition to writing rock songs, he had written country rock music for others. He realized country was more natural for him. By 2011, he split his time between the farm, Nashville, and Los Angeles.
As much as he loved his music career, Korfe was committed to farming. “Once the farm isn’t in the family, it’s not coming back,” he says.
Korfe appreciates his parents’ hard work starting from scratch in 1971 with 180 acres and 30 cows. “I read a statistic about the small percentage of young family farmers, which I find more of a challenge. It’s like the odds are stacked against you,” he says.
In 2012, he partnered with his parents, Jerry and Linda Korfe, to transition the farm, but Korfe set a couple of restrictions.
“I told Dad I didn’t want anything to do with the pigs, and if he asked me to milk cows, I would sell them while he was sleeping,” he laughs. His father sold the cows and raises the pigs, while Korfe takes care of crop production.
He purchased his former youth pastor’s 60-acre farm and rented additional land.
Then a performance at a 2014 Twin Falls, Idaho, pageant changed his priorities again. Wright won the competition – and Korfe’s attention. Music, faith, and rural upbringings connected them. After finishing her duties as Miss National Sweetheart and Miss Idaho, the couple started their life together in the farmhouse he had remodeled with recycled and auction treasures.
Box elder beam steps lead into the attached garage
Korfe transformed into a living room with walls covered in old barn wood. Copper door kickplates top a fireplace made of stone he cut and mortared in place from rocks the couple collected from the farm and Idaho. Korfe built the dining room cupboard out of old silo doors – the ones he hated climbing as a kid.
The Wedding Barn
The house renovation was a warm-up compared with remodeling the 10,000-square-foot barn. Korfe straightened the sagging roof and added 420 16-foot 2×4s before putting on steel roofing. Managing a wedding venue has been a goal for Wright, a marketing and business major, who paid for college with pageant scholarships. She and Korfe plan to get married in the barn, and other couples have contacted them about their weddings. That accelerated the plan to finish an outside deck and a portion of the hayloft to accommodate six weddings later in 2018.
“We powerwashed the barn last summer and found this incredible wood: walnut, oak, hickory,” Wright says. After Korfe installed new windows where the hay door had been, Wright cut and nailed old wood to panel a wall. She and other family members pitched in to help Korfe pour forms and piers to hold up the exterior deck.
“We’re going off drawings, and Jeremiah has brought a lot of my ideas to life,” she says. “The goal is to have people come from the Twin Cities, like a destination wedding. We hope to bring people to this area because it is a special place that gets overlooked.”
Their off-farm career contacts will also draw attention to the Stone Hill Farm wedding services they plan to offer.
Along with creating a business and commuting with careers, Korfe grows soybeans and corn. While their equipment is older, he appreciates technology and precision farming. He and his dad had some of the heavy clay, rocky soil acres tiled and put low-yield acreage in hay. They budget for low commodity prices by reducing input costs.
“I started soil-sampling two years ago, and it’s paying back tenfold,” Korfe says. “We’re not spreading as much fertilizer, and we’re putting it where the ground can hold it better.”
He really started saving when he purchased a liquid fertilizer sprayer at an Iowa auction and modified it from 22-inch rows to 30-inch rows. He and Wright seek out deals and buy items at auctions, especially in the Dakotas, whenever they can.
They also attend area seminars for farming and talk to successful farmers. The couple recently became district sales managers for Stine Seed Company.
While there is always plenty to do on the farm, they balance off-farm time with their careers. Korfe visits Los Angeles and Nashville to finalize song recordings. Wright, who won Miss Minnesota USA 2018, has a busy event calendar. They traveled to New York for fashion week, and sometimes sing together as part of Wright’s Miss Minnesota USA duties.
Help from Korfe’s dad, a part-time hired hand, and technology make it possible to do it all.
“I can do all my seed, fertilizer, and chemical pricing while I’m away,” Korfe says. “When I’m in the tractor, I’m able to listen to songs to do edits on my phone. I can Facetime with the guys in the studio to put changes on songs while I’m in the tractor (with auto steer). It blows their minds because most of the musicians have never been on a farm.”
Having lived in both worlds, Korfe and Wright agree that raising a family in the country is a priority after Wright completes her pageant duties.
“We were raised on hard work and sincerity. That plays into our core values,” Wright says. “It’s a lifestyle I’m excited about. We both have entrepreneurial spirits. This is our world here.”
For childhood friends who wonder why he came back home, Korfe says he has chosen the better of the two worlds.
“The grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side,” he says. “Just fertilize the grass you’ve got.”
Jeremiah James Korfe and Kalie Wright pose in front of the barn they are restoring for a wedding venue. The windows in the hayloft had been special ordered for a church but were the wrong size, so Korfe got a great deal on them.
Jeremiah James Korfe farms 2,000 acres, raises 40 beef cattle, and partners with his parents in Eagle Bend, Minnesota.