Meet Al Farmes: the 2002 Outdoor News Man of the year

His past successes at coalition building allow him to see this,
and the current status is the main reason for his frustration.

Humble beginnings

“Preserving the land of our state for future generations is
something that I’ve believed strongly in almost all my life,”
Farmes said from his Brooklyn Park townhome.

Farmes was born in south Minneapolis in 1914 not too far from
Lake Nokomis.

Growing up he had very limited experience with the outdoors. “My
dad would take me fishing for sunfish and crappies but he never
hunted,” Farmes said.

Life went on without much thought to the outdoors and Farmes
joined the U.S Navy and served during World War II as an
electronics trainer on the West Coast. He married in 1941 and had a
child before he left the Navy in 1945 and returned home to
Minneapolis.

Upon returning home, Farmes opened up a radio service shop and
eventually started to work for Hennepin County as captain of the
public safety radio dispatch for police, fire, and sheriff. Besides
work and married life, Farmes began to hunt, mostly with his
younger brother.

“We’d hunt up in northwestern Minnesota near Thief River Falls
and in the central portion near Morrison,” Farmes said. “We’d hunt
ducks, sharptails, and pheasants back when there was good pheasant
hunting.”

Farmes took to hunting like a duck to water and was soon an avid
hunter. In 1953 he started bowhunting for deer before it was a
common practice. “Back in those days some folks believed that you
couldn’t kill a deer with a bow I proved them wrong,” he said.

In 1957 he scored a world class buck that received a Pope and
Young score of 1477/8 and was placed third in world competition
that year.

He was also one of the first people in the state to successfully
archery hunt for moose and tagged one in 1971, the first year of
Minnesota’s moose hunt.

An avid fly fisherman and fly-tier, Farmes invented a few flies
that sold pretty well and helped him retire from the Hennepin
County Sheriff’s office in 1971.

His love of trout fishing extends to this day and he likes to
head to western Wisconsin each spring to do some trout fishing. The
only time Farmes has not been part of a blanket organization was
when he was a board member of Trout Unlimited.

Four years ago Farmes took up turkey hunting and says he found
yet another excuse for getting outdoors and enjoying the public
land he has worked to preserve.

It’s not all woods and water for Farmes, however. During the
summer he often chases a white ball with a stick through the green
grass.

A brother’s guidance

Besides introducing him to hunting, Farmes’ brother also
introduced him to the fledgling conservation movement that was
gaining momentum across the nation.

“My brother said I should join the Minnesota Conservation
Federation and I did because in my hunting experiences I could see
the problems that wildlife was starting to face with all the
drainage that was going on,” Farmes said.

“I decided that if I wanted to keep hunting ducks I’d better do
something about it and I’m still trying to this day,” he added.

Farmes was with the MCF for many years and received several
service awards from the organization for his hard work. Meanwhile,
his brother began to work for the Minnesota DNR and eventually
became a regional wildlife manager out of Bemidji.

“I give a lot of credit to my brother for teaching me the
fundamentals of wildlife management,” Farmes said. “I don’t pretend
to be a wildlife manager but I know the fundamentals and he’s the
one I learned most of that from.”

Farmes speaks fondly of his brother and said he was a good
wildlife manager because the people in his area at one time wanted
to fire him.

“They wanted to flood the wetlands of Thief Lake and make it a
fishing lake but my brother said no, he wouldn’t do it,” Farmes
said. “He told them about the loss of duck habitat and what would
happen and you can see now that he was right.”

Work is never done

Farmes plans on hanging his plaque on the wall of his office
which already is loaded up with awards. He joked that now he’s
going to have to rearrange the awards in order to fit his new
plaque.

Other hardware on his wall of fame include prestigious awards
such as the John Rose award from the Fish and Wildlife Legislative
Alliance, the American Legion’s Conservationist of the Year award,
the Northwest Sportshow Special Award, an award of Meritorious
Service from the DNR, two service awards from the Minnesota
Conservation Federation and a Legislative Resolution in his
honor.

Those other awards are a testament to his long-term dedication
to our state.

At 88 years old, Farmes hopes he still has many years to
advocate for the outdoors. While he is tireless in his pursuit of
more, he is proud of all he has helped accomplish.

“I like to keep busy but I’m not able to do as much as I used
to,” he said. “Especially at 88 years old, I’m lucky if I get up in
the morning.”

The rest of us are thankful for all he has done and hope that
we’ll have him with us for quite some time. “He’s in great shape
and he’s got a shot at hitting 100,” Botzek said. “I hope he does
it, we need him around as long as we can.”

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