“GROW THROUGH SWEAT EQUITY” by Joli A. Hohenstein (Farm Futures Magazine)
“Neither Rocks nor deer nor lack of soil fertility keep Glen Groth from growing his farm. Giving new meaning to the term “sweaty equity,” Glen has toiled away on 700 acres, producing corn, soybeans and hay in Winona County, Minn. He chips away at rocks in the land, fights off wildlife and reclaims Conservation Reserve Program acreage to develop pro table land.”
Still, he tends to see the glass half full.
“In every place you have a di culty and an advantage,” says Groth, 33. Challenges come with the territory, and it’s all in how you face them. Farming with his parents since college graduation in 2005, he started with 25 dairy cows and 200 acres of his own. Today, he’s maxed out at 65 cows until he can expand the dairy, and he continues to add acreage.
Groth’s wife also farms 250 acres with her brothers at her family’s farm nearby. “My in-laws have a pretty established and progressive farming operation,” he says “They had fertility built up and weeds under control. I didn’t have that.”
Groth’s land is mostly former CRP or pasture. “I had to make the investment to clear it out and get it ready for production,” he says, adding acres and equipment only when it made financial sense. Admittedly, it’s a chal- lenge accessing land and capital, but he works with a farm business management professional who helps determine when the time is right. “I don’t mind taking some risk— I think you have to as a young farmer,” says Groth. “But I’m a big believer in keeping track of your risk.”
He finally invested in a combine this spring, and recently added row shut- o s to the corn planter. But because of his elds’ fragmentation — a lot of 3-, 5- and 10-acre fields — Groth says much of today’s precision technology doesn’t pay off.
Even so, moving forward is a must. “The biggest challenge is growing to the point where it’s sustainable, to the point that you can keep up with updating equipment and invest back into the business,” he says.
CARING FOR LAND
For Groth, sustainability means not just in busi- ness, but in land steward- ship as well. “Growth was always on my mind,” he says. “A lot of decisions we don’t make just on immediate nancial gain, but on our reputation and what’s best for the natural resources.”
It’s an attitude that earned Groth Family Farms the Winona County Outstanding Conservationist award. Employing techniques including grassed waterways, buffer strips, feedlot runoff management, contour strip cropping and cover crops help protect the land and the productivity.
e award continues the family’s history of responsible farming — Groth’s grandfather also received the award in the 1970s.
“I want to keep moving ahead,” he says. “In land or equipment, you’ve got to be a step ahead.”
—Dean Riggott is a professional photographer based in Rochester, Minnesota, who specializes in editorial, commercial, corporate and advertising photography. Agriculture is a favorite subject of Dean’s to photograph. Whether shooting for a client, or on his own, Dean can often be found out in the country capturing images that reveal the character of today’s American farmer.