I’m a proud 5th generation family farmer located in West Central MN. A lot of things have changed since my ancestors sailed across the pond in 1876 to stake their claim during the boom of the U.S. Homestead Act, but many things remain the same.
My family’s livelihood still depends on the same fertile soil and healthy natural resources as we did 143 years ago, but the way we manage it is continuously evolving. Technological advancements and scientific understanding of crop seeds have seen profound increases with crop yields. Horses and handwork have been replaced by large, efficient machinery increasing productivity. And sadly, less than 2% of people in our nation are now farming. My family still plants, nurtures, and harvests our crops together as a family, just like 97% of the farming operations in the United States do today.
As a result of being raised on a family farm, I was taught hard work, pride, and inherently created a more in-depth understanding of the cycle of life, and it has become more evident to me as I grow older. Aside from the painful cold and the mountains of snow at certain times of the year, I can’t imagine raising my children anywhere else.
Growing up, I got to see my parents work hard to earn their position in life. They’ve always done well at ‘leading by example.’ When I was much younger, Dad would grind feed every day to support his cattle operation. Not long after my brother was born in 1988, the cattle were traded for hogs, and eventually, the hogs would also go away, and Dad would concentrate his efforts on crop farming. Luckily (for me), I was never quite old enough to really help with those chores. But if I were, it would have been part of my daily routine that would have taken place before and after school, as many farm kids endured.
Learning to love the farm was not always an easy thing for me. There was a time in my younger years where I wasn’t confident that I wanted to remain on the farm my entire life. My parents always supported my decisions, but I’m sure deep down inside they were hoping at least one of their two sons would choose a life on the farm.
After graduating from my local high school in 2003, I attended Technical College in Bemidji, MN where I came to realize that farming was something I loved. I was, of course, not oblivious to the potential opportunity that farming could provide for me if I decided to choose that path in life. I returned to the farm after my 2 years semi-away while at school, and I’ve been working side-by-side with my father since April of 2005.
2019 will mark my 15th year as a full-time farmer, a stat that seems to surprise myself as much as anyone around me. My wife and I recently bought the farmhouse (built in 1998 while I was in Junior High) from my parents, and we are now fortunate enough to have the opportunity to raise our 3 children, and our niece, on our farm the same way my brother and I grew up. There’s never any way to tell what the future may hold, but we’re looking forward to the growth we will experience on our family farm. Farming is risky, and it’s hard work, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In this day and age, there aren’t many people lucky enough to feel the pride of their own harvest after a season of hard work.
Maybe, someday, my grandchildren will look forward to the same opportunities in their lives.
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