“I really enjoy it, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There are a lot of long days. You go home at night and feel like you accomplished something and it’s usually a good day.”
Mitch Swanson of Kerkhoven is breaking into farming, starting on a smaller scale level. His parents were never farmers. And while Mitch had never farmed before, that’s the profession he chose as his career in life.
His parents live near St. John’s Lake. His mom, Tammy, operates the convenience store in Pennock, and his dad works for UPS.
Mitch got into farming thanks to Mike Arends of rural Pennock. Mike was looking for some help, Mitch was available, so they started working together with Mitch driving the tractor and doing various things.
Kevin Crowley with Heritage Banks, said that as the relationship has grown,
Mitch has decided he wanted to make this more of a career than just a job. “Mike has given Mitch the opportunity to start farming on a smaller scale, using his labor in exchange for Mike’s equipment.”
Last year Mitch got into buying 3 to 4 day old baby calves. He rents some buildings from mike and plans to raise these feeder calves to expand on his farming operation.
“What I enjoy most about farming,” Mitch said, “is that every day it’s something different, a new day and you’re not doing the same thing every day.” You keep one eye open looking for something else that needs to be done, he said, and if something breaks you’ve got to fix that and on a different day you’ve got to fix something else, it’s different every day.
Mitch said he’s pretty much his own boss. He does chores in the morning and in the winter they work on repairing equipment and getting things ready to go for spring. He does chores in the evening and then calls it a day.
“Mostly Mike has been teaching me the crop and mechanical operations of the farm.” Mitch said he’s also learning a lot on the cattle operations from his friend Jared.
This really is on the job training, Mitch said, noting he rents 225 acres on which he grows corn and soybeans. “I might also plant a little bit of oats this year.”
Mitch has 80 calves, some are 400 pounders and some are 300 pounders. “They’re Holstein bull calves. I’m raising them to 500 pounds and then will sell them.” They’re feeder cattle, he said, and someone will buy them and finish them out to 1400 pounds.
Mike said this arrangement is working out really well for him, and it’s helping Mitch get started in farming. “He enjoys doing it. For him to work with me and use my equipment in exchange for labor works out for both of us. It’s a real good deal.”
Crowley said in today’s environment with agriculture, for Mitch to go out and buy his own equipment and start farming is almost impossible. “This is a way that he’s leveraging his labor to help get started farming. He probably can’t start out farming and going out and renting a whole bunch of acres to make it his own operation. This way he can use his labor in exchange for equipment and start out more slowly and work into it.”
Farming is no different than anything else, he said, finding labor and having a consistent source of labor is hard, so this way during the planting and harvesting, Mike know where he’s at when he needs help and in the slower times Mitch has got his calf raising and other things that he can do. It’s a win, win situation.
Mitch says he enjoys it. He usually starts chores about 8 a.m. and stays until 8 p.m. because every 12 hours you’ve got to do chores. “You can either wake up late and go to bed late or wake up early and go to bed early,” he said. In the spring and fall they start earlier. “I’ll be doing a lot of field work in the spring, digging and planting, all sorts of stuff. I planted probably 75 percent of the fields this spring. I enjoy planting, it’s fun.”
Mike said Mitch got started probably 12 years ago. “He came over here with his aunt one day to take some straw out of the barn. Then the next spring I asked if he could come over and pick rocks and he’s been here ever since.”
Mitch said he really enjoys it, he wouldn’t trade it for anything, even though there are a lot of long days. “You go home at night and feel like you accomplished something and it’s usually a good day.”
Written by Bev Ahlquist
Published in The Kerkoven Banner 2/14/2018