May 6, 2004
In January of 2002, my wife, Heidi, and I made the decision to attempt a move to Western South Dakota, at or near my family's cattle ranch. Realizing an off-ranch source of income was a necessity, I approached my employer. To my grateful surprise, I was given the approval to work from a home office, and thus began our adventure west.
Armed with a stable income, we were prepared to choose a specific location. My choice was to be back on the ranch. Heidi, even though she was a "small town girl", living 75 miles from Pizza Hut or 40 miles to the nearest town of 450 people, would be life changing. After a little persuasion, Heidi was willing to give ranch life a try.
Heidi's agreement sealed the deal, but we still missed a crucial component to make ranch life a reality. I needed access to high-speed internet for my job. As luck would have it, Golden West Companies announced the replacement of older lines, with new fiber lines capable of delivering aDSL to our ranch home. Now imagine my excitement, I would finally fulfill a lifetime dream of returning to country life!
Shortly after our official move in March of 2002, while working with young horses, my father was injured. His injuries were minor, but tests indicated a cancerous tumor on his kidney and it needed to be removed immediately. Compiling Dad's major surgery, with the worst drought in recent history of SD, we were distressed, but not ready to quit.
Following a quote by Henry Ford, "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal"; we proceeded with purchasing a home to live on the ranch. In September of 2002, we moved into our new ranch home and Dad began his full-recovery.
Salary doesn't equal equity, making traditional lending not an option for us to purchase cattle. Therefore, I applied as a beginning farmer at USDA Farm Service Agency and was approved. On March 14th, 2002 Dad and I went to the Ft. Pierre auction where Heidi and I joined the beef industry.
It might be suggested that Heidi and I have been "lucky" in our quest. Economically, it has been good timing, BUT, aside from the obvious issues, such as persistent drought and unstable cattle prices, another issue lingers: "family dynamics" and effective communication.
At times we felt we may have made the wrong decision, despite the good fortune, BUT, I love working with my father, and this is where our pride and history exist. As we overcame many challenges stopping others from entering farming and ranching, we prepare ourselves to work through this topic as well.
Therefore, our 2004 goal is to develop a business plan that includes estate planning and integrated resource management for our cow/calf operation's future. We want to modify the base cow herd and move into niche markets with my parents, while designing a method for Heidi and I to easily continue the operation we build together, upon my parents decision to retire.
Location: Howes, SD