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Millers receive much-needed precipitation in late October

WILLISTON, N.D. – After a long stretch of dry conditions, Floyd Miller, who farms with his son, Casey, and brother, Rodney, was glad to see some precipitation fall on Oct. 23 before the ground freezes for winter.

“We received 2-3 inches of snow, and it was good to see – we haven’t had precipitation for a while,” Floyd said.

The Millers have been busy finishing up a few fall projects post-harvest. While Floyd cleans machinery to store, Rodney has been hauling durum into the elevator, and Casey has been busy discing fields.

“Casey is killing grasses that are coming up,” he said.

Floyd is continuing to put away the farm machinery before the snow gets too deep, which could be soon. Temperatures were expected to drop into the 40s for the high and 30s for the low during the last week of October, which is typical for North Dakota.

The Miller farm has historic buildings on it. One of the most eye-catching is the old country school house, which opened in 1925 and closed in 1985. The Millers bought it from the school district in 1995.

“I went to the school for all of my eight elementary years,” Floyd said.

The school house has sentimental value to Floyd, but the district removed all the desks, books, and school supplies prior to sale.

In 1995, the district held a sale for the country school house and Floyd did not bid on it because it had asbestos in it. No one else bid on it for the same reason.

“I found out they decided they were going to burn it down and then just fill in the hole, so I found out how much it would cost for them to do that. I made them an offer that if they would take the asbestos out, which they had to anyway even if they burned it, and paid me half of what it would cost them to burn it and fill in the hole, I would keep the building,” he said.

So the Millers were able to buy the land and the school house on it. One of the first things they did was put a tin roof on it that would last forever.

The Millers really like tin roofs, and they’ve recently finished putting a red tin roof on their home on the farm. Their house on the farm was originally built in 1946 and had a wooden shingle roof, which they kept painted. Now, they don’t have to worry about the weather or anything else damaging the roof.

Fred and Ruth Miller, Floyd and Rodney’s parents, lived in that home first, and that is why Floyd believes the farm is officially named “F R Miller Farms.”

“They never really called it that, but Rodney and I used to tease them about it. We would say, ‘Fred and Ruth get the bills and Floyd and Rodney get the checks,’” Floyd said.

At the time, Floyd and Rodney were farming with their dad. Fred’s last year of farming was in 1987.

Fred and Ruth retired and moved to Williston in 1989. Debbie and Floyd were living in Williston when Floyd and Rodney first rented land and were farming. They moved to the farm and the house later on.

“We moved to the farm when our youngest son graduated from high school,” he said.

During their years farming together, Floyd and Rodney started going to farm auctions and buying lots of old and antique machinery. Today, the farm still has many John Deere tractors, combines, and other equipment.

“We don’t just buy all this equipment to restore like some farms do. We keep most of the machines running and we use them on the farm,” he said.

Rodney, who lives in Grenora, N.D., has kept all his acres in no-till over the years and is slowly selling them to Casey. He plans to continue helping out at the farm in the future, but he wants it to be as a farmhand, not a decision maker.

“I will still be coming at planting and seeding with my air seeder and operating my combine at harvest,” Rodney said, adding he knows it will be more enjoyable for him. “I will let someone else make the decisions and I will just enjoy farming.”

Rodney worked for a pipeline company for 25 years and still farmed. He said his boss always respected him and he respected his boss, in turn.

“If I took vacation to go seeding on the farm and it was raining, my boss would let me come back to work and take vacation days later on,” he said. “I worked hard for him because he was a good boss.”

Rodney has a good sense of humor, just like his brother Floyd. He remembers how his dad used to keep everything because he lived through the Depression. One time a neighbor came to the farm shop to talk to Fred about something, and saw all kinds of items, along with stuff that normally would have been thrown out, tacked up wall to wall in the shop.

“The neighbor looked around at all the stuff and said one word – ‘auction’ – but we didn’t know if he meant he should get rid of it all at auction or have an auction himself, and we never asked,” Rodney said, with a laugh.

Floyd still attends the church the community rebuilt in 2007 after it burnt to the ground. The church is right at the corner before the turn is made to come to the farm. Floyd and the other men in the church put up walls and rebuilt it from nothing.

“I am still the bell ringer at the church,” Floyd said.

He continues to be an active member of the Drum and Bugle Corps Marching Band and they play at different events during the year.

In addition, Floyd still serves on the committee that puts on the Annual Hard Spring Wheat Show in February. In 2023, it will be their 70th annual show. One of the main parts of the show is the bread making that fifth graders take part in every year.

Casey is trying to expand his acreage every year, as land becomes available. While he said it is difficult to buy or rent land if you are a small farmer, he felt fortunate that in 2013 he was able to slowly start taking over Floyd’s rented lands and is buying some of Rodney’s acres.

Casey enjoyed growing up on the farm and remembers wanting to farm from the time he was young.

“I always wanted to farm. I remember in the second grade I was struggling with math, and I told my teacher that I did not need to know math because I was going to be a farmer,” he said. The teacher asked Floyd at the next parent/teacher conference, “What are you teaching him these days?” And they all laughed.

Floyd later showed Casey some of the ways math would be used around the farm.

Casey remembers working with his dad around the farm all the time, especially on weekends, and he has a special memory of his Grandpa Fred.

“Grandpa always liked sweet things and he would keep lemon drops and butterscotch candies in his truck. As kids, we knew that and when we wanted something sweet, we would go to his truck and have one or the other,” Casey said. “The only thing was sometimes Grandpa would suck on a lemon drop and put the rest of it back in a wrapper and back in the bag. We would have to be really careful about which candy we took.”

All the way through school, Casey liked helping his dad on the farm during his free time, especially on weekends. After high school, Casey went to college in Williston and graduated with a degree as a diesel technician. He worked at Cenex (now Horizon Resources) in Williston as a diesel tech for a couple of years.

“I always made sure I was at the farm for planting and harvesting. I would take vacation, if I was working, in order to be there during those times,” he said.

Today, what Casey loves about the farm is working outdoors in the fresh clean air in the country, along with all the smells that go with farming.

“I love the smell of freshly-tilled soil, the smell of hay when I am haying, the smell of grain, all the smells on the farm – I can even tell when someone is out spraying in another field from the smell,” Casey said.

Casey met his wife, Ashley, in high school when he was a sophomore and she was a freshman. They went together all through school and shortly after he graduated from college, they married.

“We went on our first date on Sept. 21. When we got married, we kept that same date, so Sept. 21 is the anniversary of our first date and our wedding,” he said.

They live in Williston and have three kids: C.J., Tru, and Cash.

Debbie enjoys going down to Arizona for the winter months and living in the home she bought on a golf course. Floyd joins her later, but comes back earlier to get ready for planting.

The plans for next year’s planting are probably going to be the same, Floyd said.

“We are planning to seed durum and canola,” he added.

Casey said he enjoys seeding canola because it “stands straight and is easier to combine than peas or lentils, where you need to put your header close to the ground.”

But what the Millers plant in the future will still depend on the markets.

“Whether we plant canola or peas and lentils – and maybe soybeans – will depend on the markets and of course, moisture. We could have had a great year if we had had more moisture. It has been dry this year,” Casey concluded.

A sincere thank you to the Miller family for allowing our readers to follow along with their family throughout the 2022 growing season. We wish them the best of luck in all their future endeavors.

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