North Dakota Farmer Talks Reality TV Appearance

April 23, 2013 12:00 AM

Fourth-generation grower Shannon Bergstrom and his family know what it’s like to work on the edge of farming. They produce corn and soybeans on 8,000 acres just south of Finley, N.D., where crops must be harvested quickly to avoid the risk of bushels freezing in the field.

That made Bergstrom Ranch a prime candidate for the first season of Challenger’s Internet video series, "The Edge of Farming".

What followed was a "neat experience," says Bergstrom, who acknowledges he didn’t know how he would react to the presence of cameras.

"After a while you’ve just got to forget about it," he says. "You’ve got a job to do."

The video shoot resulted in three episodes, each about 3 1/12 minutes in length, documenting the 2012 harvest. Obstacles they face along the way include a powerful winter storm. The episodes include interviews with Bergstrom; his cousin Tor, with whom he runs the operation day-to-day; his father, Roger; and Tor’s father, Gary. Shannon and Tor took over the operation from their fathers, who began farming in the 1970s and now drive tractors and provide other needed help during the summer.

Their great-grandfather, Olaf, founded the operation.

"It’s just kind of grown that way," Shannon Bergstrom says. He owns land and rents from his dad and others.

The Bergstroms began buying Challenger track tractors for tillage a few years back, he says. They’re easy to drive and get into, and offer a nice platform and windows, all features that might be minor to most but make a lot of difference to a farmer, Bergstrom says. In addition to operating Challenger track tractors, the Bergstroms use John Deere combines and tillage equipment; White Planters; Sunflower tillage equipment; a Case IH sprayer; and other equipment depending on the job.

Butler Equipment in Fargo services their equipment.

"They’ve just been super for us," Bergstrom says.

There are several positive outcomes from "The Edge of Farming" appearance, Bergstrom says. The episodes demonstrate the amount of hard work required for people to get their food. They show how the Bergstroms adapted from a wheat-intensive operation to one focused on corn and soybeans in a part of the country that offers a very short time window for planting, harvesting and prep work.

The videos are also a great record for future generations of the Bergstrom family.

"It’s a document that we’ll have for our family history, so that was probably one of the best things," Bergstrom says.

He enjoyed watching similar "Edge of Farming" episodes about farmers in Texas and Mississippi for their educational value. Growers elsewhere have different challenges, Bergstrom says, and he appreciates being able to farm in North Dakota even more now.

For the 2013 growing season, Bergstrom anticipates planting 2,500 acres to corn and the remaining 5,500 to soybeans. All planting wrapped up in two weeks last year—a perfect scenario, he says.

"That is not going to happen this year, but we’ll be able to start in the second week in May, hopefully," Bergstrom says. There’s still snow on the ground in North Dakota, and the family anticipates hiring custom planters to ensure they can get the crop in the field in the narrow time window.

With all of those challenges ahead, Bergstrom remains optimistic.

"It’s not work if you enjoy it," he says. 

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