By saying “yes” to a dream – a dream that many may not have had the courage to pursue – Lance and Kelly Myrvik are now growing their sheep farm in Edmore, N.D. From being raised on his family’s farm, Lance said he felt the pull to return as an adult while the couple were living in Minnesota.
“When I was growing up, I was told to go to college and that the degree I was earning would end up paying for itself,” he related. “My dad was farming at the time, but college was heavily pushed by my family.”
Lance lived away from the farm for 15 years, attending school and working a variety of jobs in town. Like many farm kids, he tried to maintain a connection to agriculture from a distance by owning some feeder cattle at the home place in North Dakota, driving 5.5 hours to help take care of them throughout the year. After getting married to Kelly in 2015, the couple began to discuss what a future in farming might look like.
“After we had our first kid in 2017, we knew we didn’t want to raise our kids in town,” Lance shared. “There was an old house on the home property in North Dakota and Kelly was actually the one who started talking about what we could do. I had been told there was no opportunity in North Dakota, but we began looking at it differently.”
In 2019, the couple moved to the family farm, starting their venture by buying 21 head of ewes. Lance said the couple chose sheep because the initial investment was doable.
“The capital costs of running sheep instead of cattle, for example, is a lot smaller and it was easier to start without borrowing too much money,” he explained.
The couple decided to raise Katahdin hair sheep, a breed developed in Maine and named after Mount Katahdin, the state’s highest peak. The sheep shed their winter coat and don’t need to be sheared. The couple sells the lambs for meat, directly to customers. The sales have been so steady that the couple has been able to grow their flock over the last three years and they anticipate lambing out 105 ewes this spring.
“Lots of people expressed interest in lamb, and thanks to marketing through social media, we have been able to sell everything we raise,” he noted.
Transitioning back to the farm
As the Myrvik family is adapting back to farm life from their former city life in Minnesota, Lance noted that there are some challenges.
“We live 45 minutes or more from any kind of grocery or hardware store. Before moving back to the farm, we had stores like Walmart or Target nearby and it was more convenient,” he said. “But you just get used to having to drive to do anything and we can get a lot of things shipped directly to us.”
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The way the couple thinks about money has also shifted.
“When we lived in town and got paid every two weeks, you are always checking the account, but here I don’t check it as often and we know that some of our income is seasonal,” he said. “The financial challenge is real and if we didn’t have the homestead to move into, things would be much harder.”
However, Lance noted there is a trade-off to the challenges of farm life.
“Our three kids can go out of the house and run around outside and we don’t worry about them. In town, we always had to know where they were and were worried about their safety. Here, there are other things to be aware of, like equipment or vehicles, but with a little instruction they understand quickly how to be safe.”
Raising their children in a farming lifestyle has been important to the Myrviks, Lance said.
“One of the reasons we wanted to raise our kids on the farm was so they could be part of our lives. We didn’t want to pay a second mortgage in childcare for someone else to raise them while we both worked,” he related.
Choosing to direct market has been the key to the farm’s success, with the farm currently having a waiting list for their lambs.
“During COVID, we really saw people wanting to know where their meat came from, so we doubled-down to see how many we could move off the farm without turning to the commercial market and now we have a waiting list,” he said.
The farm is looking at expanding to restaurants in the area this year.
When considering if the move from in-town jobs and living was worth it, Lance said the couple wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to say ‘yes’ again,” he said. “To have our kids on the farm and for them to be part of 4-H and have those experiences is worth it. The freedom of running our own business and making it our own, I didn’t know how much that would hit me, but it’s been a huge payoff.”
For more information, see the Myrvik’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/MyrvikFamilyFarms.