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Ag Entrepreneur: His Future is on the Farm

In a time when many aspiring farmers find it difficult to get into agriculture, 25-year-old Jason Frerichs uses imagination and determination to carve himself a niche.

It first came in the form of buying 30 cows when he was still a college senior finishing a degree in agricultural education. Today, Frerichs farms in partnership with his parents, Kent and Faye, and his older brother, Aaron, and younger brother, Ryan. The family raises corn, soybeans, and wheat near Wilmot, South Dakota. Jason Frerichs manages a 150-cow beef herd and owns 147 acres.

He also is an agriculture instructor and serves as an FFA adviser and a vice president of the Roberts County Farmers Union. He is also a minority whip in the South Dakota House of Representatives and is the fourth generation of his family to serve as a state legislator.

Each of Frerichs' agricultural building blocks stem from his vision and ability to access available opportunities. It all started when Frerichs intentionally majored in agriculture in college.

"I decided that I wanted to be able to do my part in shaping production agriculture," he says. "The future of farming and ranching depends on young people just like me taking a stand and deciding that we can be farmers."

Frerichs looked first at his family's farm. "I wanted to find new opportunities from using resources already available on our own farm," he says.

Adding cattle was an attractive option. "We had grassland because my dad used to have cattle but sold them," he says.

Expecting his teaching schedule to conflict with spring calving demands, he bought late-calving cows that calve on pasture during August and September.

Custom fieldwork further offered opportunities. Frerichs and his brothers provide custom services of tillage, planting, spraying, harvesting, and baling.

Potential future opportunities include adding shop services to the farm as a business opportunity for Ryan, soon to graduate with an educational degree in automotive and diesel mechanics. Another possibility is offering ag consulting services to other farmers.

Frerichs sees the future holding the potential for young operators like himself to purchase land as the baby boomer generation of farmers downsizes holdings. Prices will determine whether land falls into the hands of younger, smaller operators or megascale operations.

As a legislator, Frerichs aims to better South Dakota's agricultural future. "My passion is focused on independent farms and ranches," he says.

Reducing the burden of liability insurance for owners of small agritourism enterprises is one example of such work. Another is legislation to develop ethanol as one prong of energy independence and on fostering community-owned wind farms where turbines are dispersed.

"Farm values and the country way of life should not be taken for granted, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to forge my career in production agriculture," he says. "All of us can do our part -- even in a small way -- to preserve the future of farming."

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