Adam Bettenhausen

Adam Bettenhausen

WISHEK, N.D. – It may have been the perfect spring morning. The rural roads leading up to the Bettenhausen Farm had muddied due to the overnight showers. The greening grass was shimmering as the morning sun gleaned off each blade. After a long winter, mornings like this seem even more special.

It was quiet though, with only sounds of birds chirping throughout the trees. Tranquility aside, Adam Bettenhausen, age 29, and his father, Reggie, were hard at work. They had spent the day prior getting a start on spring wheat seeding. The late start to spring had them anxious to get going.

“We’ve gotten off to a good start,” Adam said. “Getting the air seeder going every year takes a day or two to get the kinks worked out. There’s always something that’s out of adjustment or broken, so we’re getting there.”

Bettenhausen Farms is a true family operation, and Adam is the oldest of the next generation. He farms with his father, and his two uncles, Kerry and Cordell. Also working with them is Adam’s cousin’s husband, Eric, and his younger brother, Nash. His cousin, Seth, helps out during the summer. The farm is annually seeded to 30 percent spring wheat, 25 percent soybean and 25 percent sunflower, with the rest being a combination of corn and canola acres.

Adam has spent his entire young adult life preparing himself to lead the operation. He went to North Dakota State University and earned a degree in General Agriculture. 

“I have a good background training to do a lot of things,” Adam said. “I’ve started to take over a lot of the management decisions.”

The Bettenhausens take pride in always evolving their operation – moving forward and continuing to grow. Part of that is conducting a lot of trials and analyzing data they gather. They keep them small in scale to be able to better track and measure the data.

Adam says one of the trial areas this year will be switching up their micro-fertilizer. They had been using a crop mix blend, but they’re going to try something different this year.

“We haven’t really been happy with those results, so we’re trying various blends of zinc and/or copper mixed in the starter, with other micros being foliar fed later” he explained. “I’m not sure if it will work in a dry granular form as far as getting it located close enough to the seed where all the plants can use it. Normally, granules are spaced out too much in the field, so we’re looking for ways to get better placement.”

The key to doing trials on their farm, according to Adam, is to be able to measure it.

“You have to be able to clean your data, analyze it and measure it. I’m a firm believer that you have to be able to do that stuff in order to move forward and continue to grow,” he said.

The economic climate around those in production agriculture isn’t great right now – that’s no secret. But so far, the Bettenhausens haven’t had to scale back their operation.

“We’re hoping we won’t really have to,” Adam said. “We’ve done some things to cut costs. We’re buying some of our chemical online now to try and save some money – wheeling and dealing on fertilizer and seed. We’re taking things like that more into consideration, but as far as cutting back, not really.”

Last year they pushed their crops really hard with the amount of fertilizer they put down. It was a good year to do so, as the area received a good amount of rain and it was a time where they could push the envelope. However, Adam noticed through various tissue samples they were in good shape in terms of nitrogen, even without doing any extra on top.

“With anhydrous prices through the roof this year, we’re toning back the rate of nitrogen a bit. We’ll do less up front, but if we get good weather, we can come back and do more,” he explained.

Heading into this season, the big concern for Adam is just getting everything done after an early winter and late spring. He had plans of getting section lines fixed and pulling rocks, among other cleanup work last fall, but with the weather he wasn’t able to get to all of that.

“This spring is getting to be a little late, so getting all that make-up work done and getting everything in during a semi-late spring is a tall task,” he said. “We should be able to handle it. We’re a little wet right now, so I’m sure there will be some fields that have prevented planting acres and some potholes we’ll have to work around.”

While starting off with moisture can be beneficial, it really all comes down to in-season rain for the Bettenhausens.

“It seems around here you either get the rain and have an awesome crop, or you don’t get the rain and you don’t. It’s such a wide swing here. You can pull 180-200 bushel corn or you can have 70 bushel corn. We don’t know what it will be, so just deciding what to put down on the crop is nerve-racking. You don’t know what you should do,” Adam concluded.

Farm and Ranch Guide looks forward to following Adam Bettenhausen and his family throughout the growing season. We wish them nothing but the best throughout the season to come.