Farm Horizons, May 1997

Merrill Birkholz will stay in farming until retirement


Times are different, said Merrill Birkholz, Howard Lake. He loves the life, but doesn't see a bright future for the family farm.

He has been farming since 1960 with his wife Ramona. They had four boys and a girl, but none of them seems likely to take over the farm, he said. They all have other interests right now.

He started out with dairy cattle, but sold the herd in 1977. He said it had reached a point where he needed to get bigger.

Instead, he and Ramona chose to sell the cattle. "They don't call them 'boss' for nothing," he said.

So, for the next 10 years, he raised grain and was a salesman for Jelco Drying Systems of Dassel.

He farms 500 acres of grain by himself, and said anything under that is not really practical.

He owns a planter and a combine with his brother, Wilton, and said the big machinery is necessary to handle that amount of acreage on his own.

Birkholz said he finished planting corn April 28, and he will finish soy beans soon. This is the first spring he has been done this early with his planting.

Birkholz said he will farm until he has to retire. He would like to see one of his boys take over the farm.

On those cold winter mornings, they have to wave to their dad, sitting in the coffee shop window, as they go past.

That could change their minds, he said.

"If you really like what you do, you will probably make it," he said.

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