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Farmers for the Future: November 2009

Growing up in a family of six farm kids near Salix, Iowa, Greg Jochum and his sister, Deb, learned the value of teamwork.

They honed their skills, swapping farm chores, showing 4-H livestock at the Woodbury County Fair (they hold a family record for 24 consecutive years), and working shifts at the family's pizza restaurant.

Today, they've formed a farm team with their parents, Leo and Bev, and their spouses. Greg, 35, worked for an agronomy company before he and his wife, Krista, came back in 2000.

"Dad said to get away for four years after college to gain real-world experience," he says. "It helped give me contacts on the retail and farm sides."

Together with Deb's husband, Tony Harpenau, the families own equipment in partnership and share labor, but they manage their operations independently.

Their three homes, set back from the road on graded knolls, overlook a rippling canvas of river-bottom crops. To the east, the Loess Hills sweep upward; the Missouri River arcs beneath the western horizon.

Leo's job at a Sioux City, Iowa, packinghouse helped secure a down payment on 160 acres when he was 21. "Dad gave me 16 sows as a wedding present in 1969," says Leo. "That's how Bev and I got started."

By 1977, he quit the packing plant and built a 250-head feeder pig complex. He had expanded to 660 sows by the time he quit raising hogs in 1999. Then he turned his focus to increasing row crops to 2,000 acres. Bev worked as a surgical nurse from 1969 to 1975 and ran the restaurant in Sloan in the evenings from 1985 until they sold it in 2002.

"Bev's been so supportive," Leo says. "She signed off on and helped pay off loans to grow our business."

Krista and Greg married in 1997, after graduating from South Dakota State University. Krista, who grew up on a dairy farm near Rock Rapids, works as a crop insurance specialist at Farm Credit Services in Sioux City. Her risk-management perspective, including life and disability insurance, is an asset. "We're keeping an eye on crop insurance," she says. "It'll be interesting to see if government subsidies decrease."

Growing up in a family of six farm kids near Salix, Iowa, Greg Jochum and his sister, Deb, learned the value of teamwork.

As the next generation returned, Leo and Bev employed a deliberate strategy. "We went to many meetings with farmers in their 70s or 80s who were just talking about turning over responsibilities to their 50-year-old sons," Bev says.

Leo and Bev began taking steps toward retirement and transition 10 years ago. "If none of the kids had wanted to take over, we would already have been retired," Bev says.

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