Caleb Krusemark guides his winning Simmental heifer, Doris, out of the show ring to the cheers of the crowd at the Martin County, Minn., fair. He gives a nod and whispers thanks as his mind turns to preparing for a trip to the state fair. With his confident, bright and buoyant smile, the 19-year-old Krusemark represents the future of American agriculture.
His resumé could be a blueprint for any young agricultural leader. Home schooled by choice from the eighth grade on, Krusemark enrolled in a postsecondary program online through a local community college as a high school sophomore. He focused on farm management and marketing courses and completed 10 credits his first year. By the time he graduated high school, Krusemark had completed all college general prerequisites and obtained his associate degree. That’s allowed him to concentrate on his double major in ag economics and animal science in his first year at North Dakota State University (NDSU).
His mother, Rochelle, describes her youngest son as “a true people person,” which helps explain the leadership roles he can list on his resumé: one of 29 state 4-H Youth Ambassadors for the past two years; a Martin County and Minnesota Pork Ambassador; a Minnesota Beef spokesman; an officer in his local FFA chapter; an athlete at the local high school; and recently appointed as a member of the NDSU Junior Traveling Livestock Judging Team.
“The average person is three generations removed from the farm,” Krusemark says. “Being involved on a statewide and even national level can open your eyes as to what people don’t understand about where our food comes from. It’s our responsibility as farmers to communicate that message … before others move in and try to influence the issues on Main Street.
“It irritates me how anti-farming activists twist words and skew the facts. The older I’ve gotten and the more experiences I’ve had, the more knowledgeable I’ve become about what people outside agriculture think. It’s valuable to know this because this is how we shape the discussion for the future,” he adds.
A Lifelong Passion. Krusemark speaks with a passion that was born in the baby seat his mother and father, Brad, secured to the tractor cab floor when Caleb was just a toddler. “They either had to take me out on the tractor or else they’d find me in the pen with the boars,” Krusemark says with a laugh. As a fourth grader, the youngster started pestering his parents for cattle. So, on the advice of his Sunday school teacher, his parents bought him three Guernsey bottle bull calves. “Guernseys are difficult and a lot of work, so we thought maybe having to feed those would cure him of his itch for cows,” Rochelle says. “Then one of them died and we thought that would surely do it.”
Just the opposite happened. “Losing that calf just made me love working with cows even more,”
says Krusemark, who today owns a Simmental and Angus herd with 20 cows and two bulls. He helps his dad with the 2,400 contract feeder hogs and rents 30 of his father’s 1,100 corn and soybean acres. An October weekend home from college finds Krusemark stacking bales of cornstalks outside the cattle barn he designed and began building in eighth grade.
“Doing the barn project was when he really knew he wanted to farm,” Rochelle says. “Constructing his own building cemented his commitment.”
That commitment has grown into farmland ownership. Krusemark purchased 235 acres at public
auction this fall for $4,025 an acre. The farm is not prime land, but Krusemark will use his management skills and sustainable farming practices to produce respectable yields.
He had already applied for the young farmer loan program through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to fund inputs when he rented land to raise corn for cattle feed. Being engaged in farming and enrolled in farm management courses allowed him to qualify for reduced-rate interest loans through FSA and ag bonds through a local bank.
Krusemark also used his personal savings for the down payment. “Brad and I did not co-sign any loan but will contribute a small amount of cash and are securing his conventional loan with 65 acres of our land to be used as collateral for the first few years until Caleb builds some equity,” Rochelle adds. “If young agricultural entrepreneurs are willing to work hard, practice stewardship and fiscal management, and are willing to take risks, there are programs and incentives available that allow the next generation to become engaged in agriculture.”
With the postsecondary education online program, Krusemark concentrated on farm business and marketing courses. Between his rental acreage and cattle herd, he developed some cash flow and through his courses learned about spreadsheets and marketing.
- December 2010