By Walter Schweitzer
Cindy and I come from a long line of agriculture families. Both raised in the Geyser, Montana area we were integral to our family farms and provided lots of unpaid labor. For my family agriculture was the primary source of income, but for Cindy’s family the farm has been a hobby supported by off-farm jobs for five generations. We both participated in 4-H and came from families very active in the National Farmers Organization.
Friends since junior high we began dating in college. I received a degree in agronomy from MSU and Cindy an English teaching
degree from U of M. In the
summer Cindy worked on a farm I purchased at the age of 18. In the 80’s land prices were high and interest rates were 20 percent. When drought set in and commodity prices fell we looked for opportunities elsewhere and found jobs in Saudi Arabia. I built pivot irrigated farms all over the kingdom and Cindy worked as an English teacher at an international school.
After five years in Saudi Arabia we returned to Montana to start a family. Land prices had plummeted, but Ag credit was in short supply. Our inability to find a
banker to loan money led us to finding three business partners who lived far away and knew nothing about agriculture. We purchased a repossessed 2,800 acre pivot irrigated farm and over the course of 10 years we turned a failed wheat farm into a successful foundation seed potato farm. All it took was endless hours of effort, dedicated employees and the help of our daughters. One of the business partners got into financial trouble and needed his equity out of the farm and when in Ireland one day saying, “Life is not good here; I think I’ll hop on a ship, travel half-way around the world and create a new life for myself.” In other words, be the adventurer your ancestor was and evaluate your life, learn about what is out there, take advantage of opportunities and try new things!
Prior to being given the opportunity to do the FUE leadership program we had been impressed by MFU’s classes on signing lease agreements with gas and oil companies. We felt MFU was forward thinking in offering something very needed in a timely fashion. We are now in the process of trying to build a pivot powered by solar energy and enjoyed a meeting MFU co-sponsored on solar power and solar legislation proposals in the state legislature. As frequent beneficiaries of MFU’s educational programs we hope to encourage others to also take advantage of these well done and important events. I am particularly impressed with MFU’s bold and unwavering support of Country- of-Origin Labeling. I feel that the fall in cattle prices can be tracked directly to the date that congress killed COOL.Having attended one FUE leadership program, we are confident that it will be a very valuable, informative, and fun use of our time. I am especially energized by the networking opportunity provided. Cindy feels there have been times in her life in which she has been a leader, but this is not one of those periods. She hopes the FUE program will inspire her to some form of outreach and involvement that will be helpful to MFU and her community!
a price couldn’t be agreed on, the
farm was sold and profits distributed accordingly.
We then purchased dry-land pasture from two neighbors bordering the previous farm and began ranching on the third agriculture venture. For the next ten years we ranched, worked numerous off-farm jobs, and watched our daughters grow up, graduate and go to college. One daughter graduated in biochemistry and currently works for the forest service in the Teton National Park and the other graduated in biomathematics and is in the final year of her doctorate degree in microbiology. They do not think it is surprising that children that grow up on farms gravitate to science.
When an opportunity arose to sell our farm at a good profit we purchased my family farm located 110 miles away. We are now in the 10th year of production and be
lieve it will be our final farm. I have always felt that agriculture production is fun and intend to keep having fun for a long time. I like the variety of activities that fill my days, being outdoors and the challenge of raising registered Black Angus animals for breeding stock. My breeding and marketing strategy is to calve easy and wean big.
The advice I offer beginning farmers is to enjoy what you do. First and foremost agriculture has to be something you enjoy. Secondly, be a lifelong student of agriculture. This includes reading, attending affordable continuing education opportunities that are offered by groups like MFU, extension and more, and join trade associations for the products you raise. Too many agriculture producers are locked into doing things the way great grandpa did and they forget that often great grandpa was the person sitting