Demand for organic meat is increasing four times faster than the total meat category, according to recent data from Nielsen. Today, consumers are concerned with environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and meat without hormones, antibiotics, or toxic pesticides.
Midwest Electric members Dwayne and Rita Krouskop of Spencerville feel the same way, especially since two of their granddaughters are immune deficient and require clean diets. Raising their own steers, chickens, and goats on their small farm, the Krouskops were voted the 2020 Midwest Electric Farm Famous winners from a lineup of more than a dozen member-submitted nominees. Dwayne and Rita won a $100 bill credit, a plaque, and the satisfaction of knowing their community stands behind their efforts to provide a healthier life for their five children and six grandchildren.
“By raising your own animals, you know what you’re eating, which is so important,” said Rita. “These animals are my pets, and I enjoy making sure they live good lives.”
The Krouskops have been married 31 years in their cozy country home, their yard sprinkled with a character-worn steer barn, bright red chicken coop, and fencing to contain their adorable pygmy goats. Friendly felines rub your ankles, meowing to be petted, and their giant Great Dane, Spartan, greets visitors with a wagging tail that might knock you over.
Dwayne works as an electrician and proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 32 in Lima, while Rita is in her 20th year of driving school bus for Spencerville Local Schools.
“We’re not BTOs — Big Time Operators,” Dwayne said, “so I’m sure there are many other farmers more deserving than us. That said, we’re very humbled to receive this award and are grateful for our community. I’ve spent my whole life in Spencerville and am a big Bearcats football fan.”
The Krouskops found their calling when their granddaughters — Juni and Rory — were diagnosed with DiGeorge Syndrome and epilepsy respectively. DiGeorge Syndrome, also known as 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome, is a rare disorder caused by a missing portion of chromosome 22 that can result in poor development of several body systems, causing heart defects, poor immune system function, and low levels of calcium in the blood. It is the second most common chromosomal disorder after Down Syndrome but is not as widely heard of. It only affects about 1 in 4,000 people, and there presently is no cure.
Meanwhile, epilepsy — a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance or seizures — affects roughly 1 in 26 Americans.
To honor their granddaughters and help raise awareness for congenital heart disease and 22q, the Krouskops joined the Adopt-A-Highway Litter Program, selecting Highway 197 near their home along the St. Mary’s River bridge (named Nora and Juni’s Family CHD and 22q Awareness Highway).
The Krouskops are also donating the $100 won through the Farm Famous contest to the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, where their family stayed when Juni was born, had open-heart surgery at six months old, and during several other procedures at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“Many people don’t know, but if you shop on Amazon, you can actually donate to various charities through their AmazonSmile program,” Dwayne said. “All you do is go to smile.amazon.com and pick your charity, then 0.5% of all eligible purchases you make through AmazonSmile will be donated to your cause. We donate to 22q11.2 groups because of the support they show families in desperate times. We’ve experienced it firsthand and want to give back.”
Raising animals is another way the Krouskops show their love. Over the years, they’ve tried it all, including fowl like geese, ducks, turkeys, and guinnea. Most recently, they added a pony with the hopes of someday doing equestrian therapy work.
“It all started with our kids’ fair projects,” Dwayne said. “Back in 1999, our daughter Hannah started with goats, then our oldest son wanted to be a vet and took on incubated eggs… he did surprisingly well, so we added on milking goats and it kind of snowballed from there. These days, the animals still remind us of our kids and all those memories.”
The Krouskop family jokes that they have big dreams, as their daughter-in-law Katie wants to train a goat for the show “America’s Got Talent.” The couple insists that their animals help slow the kids down and teach them a greater appreciation for life.
“Maybe someday we’ll open a petting zoo…. maybe,” Rita laughs. “One day our granddaughter got bored and wanted to explore the woods — yes, even with her blingy dress on. So we take pride in showing them where the buckeye trees are, what the river sounds like, and all the other gems around us if only we look. We have to appreciate everything around us.”
You may not know Rita loves to crochet (but can’t figure out how to end the blanket she started years ago) or that Dwayne is your go-to phone call on a trivia show (“he’s a dictionary of random facts,” as Rita says). But one thing is crystal clear about the Krouskops: They are warm, tender-hearted, and selfless advocates for their family.
FIND RESOURCES & LEARN MORE
- Ronald McDonald House Charities have provided more than 2.5 million overnight stays for families traveling far from home for their children’s medical needs. To learn more or donate, visit www.rmhc.org.
- To learn more about 22q11 and how to help children with this life-changing disease, visit the 22Q11.2 International Foundation’s website at www.22q.org. You can also follow Juni’s story on Facebook. The page named “Juniper’s Army” raises awareness for CHD and 22q and attempts to give back to organizations that have contributed to her success.
- The Epilepsy Foundation provides resources for living with epilepsy, as well as how to make a difference online at www.epilepsy.com. The foundation has trained more than 510,000 people to recognize and administer first aid for seizures, as well as raise $68 million for epilepsy research.