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All for one and one for all
Growing up in a family of 12 offers many life lessons. As the second oldest son, Dave Mathiowetz learned to negotiate his own turf in the three-bedroom farmhouse near Morgan, Minnesota.
He and his 11 siblings also discovered the value of working together and gained a sense of looking out for one another.
These life lessons prepared Dave and his brothers, Jim and Myron, for farming together. Dave joined his dad, Andy, and Jim in 1968. Myron (affectionately known as #11) came onboard in 1983.
Today this team is laying the groundwork for the sixth generation, Dave’s sons, Doug and Joel.
Five separate operations
The Mathiowetzes grow 2,400 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and sweet peas, and raise 250 head of sheep. “We’re five separate operations that share labor and equipment,” Joel says. “We each handle our own financing and marketing, but we share lots of ideas.”
Doug and Joel, along with their three sisters, were actively involved in county, regional, and state 4-H and FFA. In 1989, they acquired six purebred ewes as a 4-H project.
Today Doug and Joel’s sheep flock is a commercial operation consisting of Polypay ewes crossed with a Hamp sire. “Polypays grow rapidly and are known for their good carcass quality,” Doug says.
At two weeks, they move the lambs, along with the ewes, from the barn into a 50×80-foot hoop building on the farm.
They market 30 to 40 head every two weeks to Iowa Lamb in Hawarden, Iowa, coordinating loads with other southwestern Minnesota producers.
Joel, 30, commutes 14 miles to his job as a loan officer in Redwood Falls. He was hired in 2004, after earning an ag business degree from South Dakota State University.
He began crop-farming in 2009, renting land from Jim. Joel obtained an FSA beginning farmer loan for 80 acres.
He’s paid an hourly farm wage, and he pays custom equipment rates for use of the machinery. Joel also raises a 40-acre plot of pre-foundation seed beans for Monsanto.
Myron, 50, and his wife, Becky live 6 miles away from Doug. They have two daughters who aren’t involved in farming.
Jim and Lorraine live on the original homeplace. None of their five children farm, but son Randy, 35, returns from the Twin Cities to help when he can.
In 1998, Dave discontinued his 100-head farrow-to-finish hog operation.
Doug and Joel had grown up raising navy beans and sweet corn. But they quit growing sweet corn in 1995 and navy beans in 2008. “Navy beans are labor intensive,” Dave says. “They’re food grade, with more chemical restrictions.”
They continue to raise sweet peas for Del Monte, cut about 20 miles of road ditch hay each summer and market corn and beans to grain facilities.
Do what it takes
Jim, 67, says he’s farming less these days and enjoying it more. He rents one third of his land to Joel and Myron. “That’s my legacy,” he says. Providing management experience is an integral part of this transition. “They’ve got to grow into it,” Dave says.
Both Doug and Joel are willing to do what it takes, including their off-farm jobs and custom work. Doug has also used his semi for custom hauling for a local co-op, and he’s worked at a golf course.
As farming evolves, they’ll rely on the continuity of a strong heritage. It’s common for 60 Mathiowetzes (30 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren) to celebrate milestones and holidays. “We’re a family of cooperation, respect, and compromise,” Joel says. “Most of all, our family believes in planting the seeds that sprout into fertile ideas.”
Family is built on cooperation, respect, and compromise.