Legacy of lending a hand: Family remembers Ethan farmer with namesake Mitchell Tech scholarship
Larson family recognized for establishing Mark Hohn Hoof Hauler Scholarship in memory of beloved brother
MITCHELL — Jay Storm just completed his first semester with the precision agriculture program at Mitchell Technical College, and he’s thoroughly enjoying it.
That makes sense. Growing up on a farm near Ethan, farming is in his bones. He is attending the school to learn with the intention of joining CHS after graduation for full-time employment through the Build Dakota Scholarship Program.
But he is also the first recipient of the school’s Mark Hohn Hoof Hauler Scholarship, which was established last year by the Jeff and Lisa Larson family in honor of Lisa’s brother, Ethan farmer Mark Hohn.
Hohn died in a farming accident almost exactly a year ago when he became trapped under hay bales on his farm. He spent roughly 20 hours trapped before he was rescued. He succumbed to his injuries a few days later in the early hours of Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021.
“I’m honored to have it, being able to be the first one to get the Mark Hohn Hoof Hauler Scholarship is a blessing. Just kind of the memory of Mark and how hardworking he was and how kind he was and his passion for farming — it really sticks out. I wish the best for everybody that gets the scholarship in the coming years and I hope they feel as honored as I do when they get it,” Storm said.
Storm knew Hohn as a neighbor and family friend who was always willing to drop what he was doing to help. Hohn’s friendliness, love for farming, penchant for telling jokes and hardworking nature were remembered by many after his passing, including his sister, Lisa Larson.
It was Lisa, who works as an instructional strategist at Mitchell Tech, and her husband Jeff, along with their sons Tate, Jace and Koby, who established the scholarship in the months following Hohn’s passing. She wanted to keep the legacy of her brother strong by associating it with helping students achieve their dreams in the agriculture industry, a business Hohn loved and worked hard in.
A way to remember
Larson was scheduled to start in her current position at the school shortly after Hohn died, and the tragedy delayed her starting the job for a short while. But not long after she did begin her new role, she thought more and more about establishing a scholarship.
“It was a way for me to remember him and to honor him," she said. "I have a coworker who had done this in memory of her husband, and it triggered for me that it was something that I wanted to do.”
The scholarship also made sense since Hohn was a Mitchell Tech alum, having graduated from the ag program in 1984, she said.
The scholarship gives $1,000 to a student studying in one of several agriculture programs at the school, and is structured to be accessible to a wide range of students. That means the scholarship focuses less on factors like grades and more on giving a student a chance to find their passion.
“I don’t require anything with the GPA. The reason I don’t is that I feel most students are applying themselves as much as they can, and why would I inhibit someone from getting a scholarship?” Larson said. “Until you get into what you really love, sometimes that talent or knowledge doesn’t show, so I don’t feel a grade or GPA is really something to judge on for somebody who deserves an award of scholarship.”
The family has a goal of raising $25,000 for the scholarship endowment. At that point, the interest earned should make the scholarship self-sustaining and can continue to offer opportunities to students for years to come.
Those starter funds are being raised through a variety of fundraisers organized by the family. It started with a letter-writing campaign around the time of Hohn’s birthday in March, and evolved into selling items with a “God Bless The American Farmer” cow logo, as well as a 5K run with patriotic costumes, among others.
Her three sons, who operate The Flop trading card shop in Mitchell, even held a charity box break to raise money and presented her with the proceeds as a surprise.
“They were able to donate $1,000 toward the endowment. I did not know they were doing it, or even how much they raised. It was something they came up with on their own, and the next thing I see they have a video coming out that they were doing it in memory of their uncle that passed away and I had no idea,” Larson said.
It may be the inaugural year for the scholarship, but it has already earned accolades from Mitchell Tech. The family was recently honored as the Individual Donor of the Year at the college’s annual Donor Appreciation Reception earlier this month.
Nick Bakhtiari, director of foundation relations for Mitchell Technical College, said all the school’s donors and industry partners are cherished for their support of the school, and the Larson’s scholarship is an excellent example of that tradition.
“The whole family has made it a priority to honor their brother and uncle. They want his memory to live on through the giving of this scholarship, because they know how much it meant to Mark personally — ag in general. They want to reward students who have that passion,” Bakhtiari said.
They have worked hard and been generous with their time in their efforts to make the scholarship a reality, which is in itself another reflection of Hohn’s focus and hard-working attitude.
“They’ve done a lot to get this done, but that just seems to be who they are. They get their head set on completing a goal and they simply do it. And according to them, that’s what Mark would do as well,” Bakhtiari said.
Larson said the family will aim for $25,000 in building the scholarship, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll stop there. She would love to double the endowment and give two scholarships away every year and has ideas for more fundraisers, like an ag olympics event that would see participants compete in farm-related events.
She and the family aren’t afraid of a little extra work to make that happen. After all, it was not unusual for Hohn to put in extra work to help his neighbors when they needed a hand, so rolling up their sleeves to help the scholarship grow is a natural way for them to help honor his legacy.
It’s been a year since Hohn’s passing, and there are still reminders of him everywhere.
The “hoof hauler” referred to in the scholarship name comes from the logo on the side of Hohn’s cattle trailer. That trailer was purchased by another Ethan resident, and the Larson family still sees it traveling the highways in the neighborhood. It’s a sturdy trailer, and has allegedly put on another 40,000 miles since it came to its new owner.
Hohn’s dog Paisley, who the family believes stayed at his side that frigid night of his accident, has taken a liking to Jay Storm’s family. The Storms now have a new farm buddy, who, like Hohn, is always up for accompanying a friend in their farmwork.
“She is literally the best dog we’ve ever had on the farm. She is so sweet and is so energetic. That is what I love about her. We put her in the shop with a little heater and bed to stay warm, and every morning you go out to start chores and she’s right there with you, jumping all over you,” Storm said. “She loves riding in the tractor too, which is also what I love about her, just to have company with you. She is truly a man’s best and that’s something of Mark I still have, which is why I’m glad we got to be the ones to take care of her. That’s what we have of Mark now.”
The serendipity of Storm planning to attend Mitchell Tech and Paisley’s sudden fondness for his family seemed like a sign pointing the Larsons to the first recipient of the scholarship, Larson said.
“Ironic as it is, Jay is here at Mitchell Tech studying agriculture. And we truly believe that little Paisley was there with (Hohn) the whole night, so it just felt right to give (the scholarship) to Jay,” Larson said, her voice cracking.
Larson also recently purchased the Super C tractor that has been in her family for years. The 1953 model was owned by her grandfather, father and brother, and is now in the hands of the diesel program at Mitchell Tech, where students are repairing and modifying it as a learning experience.
“I have my little Super C over there, it’s just tiny, but it’s from 1953 and it was my grandpa’s, my dad’s and my brother’s. Now I’m the proud owner. And on top of it, they’re only charging me for parts, so it’s a learning experience for them, but it’s also rejuvenating my childhood (memories). My goal is to drive it in one of the parades, hopefully the rodeo parade next fall,” Larson said.
And of course, Hohn’s friends and family hold on to their own memories of him. Larson said her older brother almost served as a second dad to her when they were growing up, watching out for her as older brothers tend to do with their little sisters. Memories of a good joke told by Hohn still bring a smile to his friends’ faces.
And now, future generations of students at Mitchell Technical College will benefit from his scholarship, boosting their ability to take a step into their new agriculture careers. Storm said the scholarship has already helped take the edge off expenses like food and gas, and he expects it will help future recipients the same way.
Even after his passing, Hohn is affecting fellow farmers' lives for the better.
The legacy lives on
Larson recently suffered another loss. Her mother, Darlene, died on Dec. 13, so the family is once again grieving the loss of a loved one. In another bit of bad luck, her father Wilb took a stumble and injured his shoulder. She credits them both with instilling strong values in her, her brother and nine other siblings.
“We didn’t become who we are because it was a miracle, it was totally by two humans who were married for 68 years,” Larson said.
Although they’ve faced a fair share of heartache in the past 12 months, the family is rallying once again, optimistically, and looking toward the future.
“We definitely always have a positive outlook, so 2023 is going to be an incredible year. We’ll take one day at a time. We’re going to have to make some adjustments without mom being here. She was always a great role model, and I’m going to try to be a shining light like her. Try to make life a little bit better for somebody than what it was,” Larson said.
Hohn also had a gift for making life a bit better for people, whether it be with a joke to cheer them up or showing up to help with a problem on the farm. That’s the philosophy behind why they started the Mark Hohn Hoof Hauler Memorial Scholarship in the first place, Larson said.
She said it has been amazing to see how the pieces of honoring her brother’s life have fallen into place. From neighbors returning the favor of helping out at Hohn’s farm after he died, to supporters who showed up to run a benefit 5K to local businesses like Sun Gold Sports that helped make their fundraisers possible. And then there’s Mitchell Technical College itself and the support she’s found in her job and her coworkers.
She and her family are grateful, and she knows Hohn’s memory lives on through them all and the students who will follow their dreams with the help of his scholarship, Larson said.
“There are a lot of cool connections. It’s really incredible how things have worked out,” Larson said. “It’s really incredible. I can’t even explain it. Believe it or not, for once, a Hohn is at a loss for words. That doesn’t happen.”