Youth Movement … Redux

In 2011, we asked young producers what fuels their passion for farming. We visited with them again and learn, despite the odds and obstacles, they’re doing well.

By Claire Vath

SEE THE COMPLETE SPECIAL REPORT: We asked several young farmers about their challenges and goals, then listened as each spoke of hard lessons learned, their passion for farming and hopes for the future. >>

In 2011, FarmLife visited with four young producers to ask them what fuels their drive, their passion. So we reached out again to some of those producers to see what they’re up to now … five years later.

Click here to see “Youth Movement” in its entirety. >>

Michel Camps

Michel and Hanneke Camps

Michel and Hanneke Camps

When last we reached out to Michel Camps, the Barnell, Alberta, farmer spoke of his mentors, his mistakes and wife, Hanneke.

Then: In 2011, Camps’ CP Farms consisted of 1,750 acres of potatoes, sunflowers, small grains, sugar beets and corn.

Now: The farm, says Camps, has grown to about 2,400 acres, in part because of long-term leases of neighboring land and purchasing land. “We still grow the same crops, but just do a little bit more,” Camps says. In 2012, the Camps family built and tripled their on-farm storage capacity for potatoes and stopped renting storage, and they added additional grain storage. “With all the crops being in one yard now, it has made it easier to manage crop deliveries in the winter, especially potatoes,” he says.

Camps estimates cropland in the area where he farms runs about $10,000 per irrigated acre (about $7,645 U.S.), which includes water rights and pivot/pump. “It’s around $7,000 for just the land [about $5,300 U.S.]. Dryland is now $4,000 an acre [just over $3,000 U.S.].”

Then: Camps ran the following Massey Ferguson equipment: MF8680, MF8670, MF7499, GC2400, MF4880

Now: He’s got quite the AGCO collection:

  • A restored 1979 MF4880, for occasional fieldwork or pulling trucks that get stuck during harvest.
  • 2014 Challenger 765D. “It’s our main heavy tillage tractor,” he says.
  • 2015 Fendt 933
  • 2016 Fendt 824
  • 2013 MF7624
  • 2015 RoGator 1300B Combo chassis with 120-foot booms and AirMax 180 granular system
  • MF GC2400, Hanneke’s garden tractor. “I’m not allowed to touch it,” says Camps.
  • Sunflower 6333 field finisher with conditioner
  • Sunflower 4411 disc ripper

Then: Camps said he aimed to grow the farm more, but not so large that he wouldn’t have a hand in the day-to-day management.

Now: Camps just came off eight years serving on the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers board. During that stint, he spent a fair amount of time away from the farm, especially in the winter. “Besides the three full-time guys we’ve had for years, we hired one extra person to take over a lot of the tasks I usually take care of, and that has taken a lot of pressure off having to be home in the yard,” he says, adding that it’s also given him more time to spend on hobbies and family. “We do farm a little more, but it has not translated into a much bigger workload for myself.”

His current day to day in winter, he says, involves organizing parts, servicing machinery, planning for the next season, attending meetings (agronomy, seed, fertilizer, chemical) or delivering crops to the buyers. “In the farming season,” he adds. “I run the RoGator, our self-propelled harvester, and do almost all the irrigation.”

And summer evenings? Well, after the staff goes home, Camps checks pivots and walks through the crops. “Sometimes, on calm nights, my wife comes along … and, sitting on the tailgate, watching the pivots putting the water on, it turns into a date.

“I love those moments,” he adds. “Heck, I love the farming season in general.”

Then: Hanneke spent less time in the fields and more time raising the couple’s four children, Kevin, Lisa, Kim and Nick. With her juggling of mothering duties, keeping farm records organized and feeding 25-person crews during harvest, Camps called her “a force to be reckoned with on the farm.”

Now: Hanneke has always had a key role on the farm. “Not only is she the one that does all our books (thank God), but she is in charge of potato seed cutting in the spring and filling potato storages in the fall,” says Camps. “She does cook dinner every day for the crew during harvest/planting operations and takes care of our four kids [Kevin, 11; Lisa, 10; Kim, 7; and Nick, 5]. We find it very important that the crew [up to 15 people] has 20 or 30 minutes to sit down and eat dinner together, get off the machinery and have a little break. Then, they are good to go for another couple hours—usually we shut down at 9 p.m. I think our staff really appreciates that. She also likes her garden and spends a lot of time growing flowers, vegetables and—believe it or not—potatoes. She truly is a wonder woman.”

Doug Sass

Doug Sass

Doug Sass

We interviewed Doug Sass as a 31-year-old farming on his Monona, Iowa, operation. Quite a bit has changed over the past five years.

Then: Sass farmed 1,100 acres of corn (including seed corn) and soybeans. He also helped his father feed 500 head of cattle a year, and they shared some equipment. Part of his business included hauling seed corn on contract for Monsanto.

Now: “I’m farming around 2,000 acres,” Sass says. He’s still hauling Monsanto seed corn and has cut back on cattle—feeding less than 100—but has new livestock. “Last winter, I added a 65-head flock of sheep, which I’ve really enjoyed,” he says. “Plus, they’re great weed-eaters!”

Land values in his area of Iowa are in the $7,000- to $9,000-per-acre range on average. “Not a lot of land has changed hands in my immediate area,” he says, and cash rental rates there are strong.

Then: With fierce competition for land, retiring neighbors took a chance on Sass, renting farmland to him as a high school senior. When we visited with him five years ago, he was wrapping up his 14th year of operations.

Now: “I’m still renting that first farm,” Sass reports, “Eighteen years and counting!”

Then: Sass ran a MF9690 combine, and MF6490 and MF8160 tractors

Now: “I’m still running all Massey Ferguson equipment,” he says. Over the past few years, he’s added an MF7624, MF2856 round baler, and an MF9250 DynaFlex Draper Header.

Then: Sass’ goal was to grow his operation a bit. “In 20 years,” he’d told us, “I hope I can be doing the same thing I am right now. This is all I ever really wanted to do.”

Now: Sass has plenty of additional farm experience under his belt, and he says he’s always looking for farming opportunities— “and ways to take more fishing trips,” he quips.

Click here to see “Youth Movement” in its entirety. >>