There’s no place like home for the holidays. Becky and her husband Vaughn Cornell know it well.
Family is the reason this year’s Williams County Agriculturists farm, and for that reason the holiday season, with all its family get togethers and traditions has always held a place of special importance to them.
But this year, it’s extra special for the Cornells.
That’s because last year, Becky was diagnosed with breast cancer. Last year, because she was in treatment fighting for her life, she didn’t get to have the usual Thanksgiving with her family.
But she is home now, victorious and strong after the battle. She is ready to be wrapped, once again, in family love for the holidays.
The Cornells are both native to the region. Becky grew up about 25 miles north of Williston on a farm and ranch. Her husband, meanwhile, was born and raised on the family farm, and began farming when he was in eighth grade.
The two found each other through 4H.
“I ended up being friends with his sister,” Becky recalled.
Growing up, her dream had always been to marry a farmer, she added.
“That dream came true,” she said, smiling.
Thanksgiving for the Cornells is built of many small traditions that, like farming, are things they’ve always done together.
There’s the all-important lefse making, for example.
Becky mixes up the semi-secret recipe, which is a based on a friend’s recipe, with just a few tweaks of her own.
Her husband, meanwhile, makes the lefse dough into little balls. Then their son, Caleb, rolls them into thin little disks, assembly-line style.
Their daughter, Hannah, takes care of flipping them when the lefse are cooking.
And then everyone is expert at eating the lefse when they are done. Just a few, of course. To make sure they all taste right for the celebration.
“Our kids love to make lefse,” Becky said. “We haven’t gotten to it yet this year. It’s going to happen, but probably for Christmas.”
The Cornells also raise a garden together with lots of fresh produce. That means the Thanksgiving feast usually includes fresh produce they have grown together, in particular corn, potatoes and squash.
There’s plenty of time fun and card games, too, during their family celebrations. Pinochle for the adults, or a game of spoons if there are lots of youngsters. That’s the game where you put not only your cards on the table, but your spoons as well.
Some years, their holiday celebrations include both Vaughn and Becky’s families together. That’s a large, 40-some gathering of people. Other years, like this one, the celebrations are smaller, with the two halves split up at different locations and times.
Family is important to the Cornells not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas, of course. This is a family that not only holidays together, but hunts together, harvests together, gardens together, and farms together.
Family, in fact, is the biggest reason the Cornells wanted to farm, in the first place.
“We wanted our kids to have the same experiences we both did being raised on the farm,” Becky said. “That work ethic that comes out of being on a farm is I guess what we wanted for our kids.”
Farming requires more than just hard work, though, Vaughn added.
“It takes a lot of working together to get all the projects done,” he said.
Farming offers a continuous life lesson, Becky added.
“There’s just a balance there that you learn,” she said. “All the hard work the dedication, and a balance that everything you are doing to make that happen is together. If you work hard and accomplish things together, you not only grow in your life, but, out of that growth, there is a lot of love.”