ADA, Minn. – A nice opportunity to follow along with a farmer in northwest Minnesota is happening. Danny Brandt, whose dad, Glen, provided reports 20 years ago, has agreed to bring readers along for the 2020 growing season at Brandt Farms.
Danny, 44, farms with his parents, Glen and Kathy, while his wife, Rachel, manages an assisted living facility in Twin Valley, Minn.
For Danny and Rachel, the loves of their lives are their three children, Hannah, 12, Evan, 10, and August (“Gus”), 5.
“As far as farming, I’ve transitioned into a lead role, but since Dad is 70, he is still very active in farming,” Danny said. “He’s very much involved. I’m not managing everything by myself here. We have the opportunity to expand a few more acres for this year, and I think that is going to work well for us.”
For 2020, the Brandts are growing wheat, oats, sugarbeets, corn and Asgrow seed soybeans. They also have a small farrow-to-finish hog operation. Danny and the kids enjoy raising pigs, and when a new litter is born, they post some photos on Facebook. Mostly they produce Hampshire/York Landrace cross pigs, but their most recent litter was a purebred Duroc sow bred to a Duroc boar.
“You just don’t see that (litters of baby pigs) too often anymore,” he said. “Tractors and pigs is what my Facebook page is about. I try to stay away from politics.”
The Brandts also show and offer pigs for sale to 4-H’ers and FFA’ers. A group of customers purchase Brandts’ finished hogs for processing at local meat lockers, too.
While the pig operation is mostly a hobby, the cropping operation is very serious, he said.
“I have never desired to be a huge, monstrous farmer, but we’ve been yield-driven,” he said. “That’s been paying the bills.”
With 20-plus years of farming experience, Danny has seen both great and difficult times. He experienced the golden years of farming from 2009-13, and he’s experienced low prices in the early-2000s, as well as what appears to be happening again in 2020.
“With prices, we are back to where we were 20 years ago, but everything else has gotten more expensive, that’s for sure,” he said.
Raising seed soybeans has worked out well, he said. The Brandts usually grow two varieties.
“There was a very-early-maturing variety that I really liked, but as the technology changed, that variety got phased out,” he said. “Now we are in some mid-season maturities and have had pretty good luck with them.
“It’s nice because I do get to take a look at the varieties about one year before they are released commercially. That is exciting, he continued.”
He seeds mostly DeKalb corn hybrids as it is a good fit for their operation. The seed corn companies have been developing corn maturities that work well for northwest Minnesota. While it doesn’t happen every year, Danny is comfortable leaving corn in the field over the winter. With very wet conditions and early snow in 2019, the Brandts left about 100 acres of corn standing over winter.
Leaving just under half of the 2019 sugarbeet crop in the fields was much more uncomfortable. Record wet conditions and early snows were killers for the sugarbeets.
“We had bigger equipment, more horsepower, the carts all geared up for a wet harvest, but nothing could prepare anybody for what we went through,” he said.
Many people have been so worried about flooding and delayed planting this spring, but the spring thaw and light rainfall have been almost ideal for the 2020 growing season. There was still some snow in protected corn stalk/tree claim areas, but farmers didn’t worry about it too much.
Planting started on April 21, and Danny was able to get some significant planting done.
“After today, I’ll be a little over one-third done with our wheat,” he said on April 28. “We’ll be about one-fourth done with our sugarbeets. Everything seemed to work really well, but of course it was on tiled ground.”
Danny started fieldwork with the tiled ground and was just about finished with that portion of their farmland. He was actually planting on non-tiled farmland late in April. There were wet areas, although he was able to drive through.
If everything worked out, corn planting could begin on April 30, he added.
“It’s getting on to May, and I don’t want to see snow anymore,” Danny concluded.
Thank you Danny for sharing your growing season with us! It’s not easy for anyone to share information this year with COVID-19, and we’re grateful for your contributions!