Adams farmer to host Breakfast on the Farm

Published 6:39 am Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ADAMS — Hybrid crops. GPS guided tractors. The face of the family farm has changed, and a breakfast in June will look to highlight the changing industry.

Dale Bissen will host the Mower County Breakfast on the Farm on June 19. Bissen, 59, said the day is a chance to show the community and people living in the city what it’s like on a modern farm.

The Mower County’s Farm Bureau sponsors the breakfast, and various groups — the corn growers, soybean growers, cattlemen and the hog producers — will have displays at the event.

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“The idea is to get a lot of the city people out to the farm because a lot of city people don’t really have a chance to be on a farm to see what we deal with and see how we make a living,” said Bissen, who added that about 700 people attended the event last year.

The last few years, Bissen said the breakfast has been held at a dairy farm. This year, the participants will get to see a different kind of farm.

“We’re trying to educate people,” Bissen said.

Bissen and his son Kim, 38, run an incorporated farm and grow corn and soybeans on about 1,400 acres. They also have a feed lot for beef cattle, and they have a hog operation.

Bissen grew up on a farm and started farming with his brothers James, Russ and Larry. However, about 20 years ago he began farming strictly with his son near Adams. His brothers still farm about five to 10 miles from Bissen near the Minnesota-Iowa border.

“It’s a wonderful place to raise kids and be your own boss,” Bissen said. “You have your risk but you get your reward once and a while.”

While farming comes with the risk of acclimate weather and poor markets, Bissen said he tries to remain even keeled. He said he doesn’t loose sleep worrying about the risk. One reason for that are the changes in the farm industry.

When they first started out, Bissen and Kim each had their own land to worry about plus rented land. Bissen said it was difficult to decide what land to harvest or plant first. They now operate an incorporated farm.

“Everything we do has the same interest,” he said.

The farm is run much like a company with Bissen acting as president and Kim acting as vice president. They host an annual meeting and have shares in the farm, with Bissen and his wife Sandy owning the majority of the shares, and Kim and his wife Dawn also owning a portion. The number of shares factor into their wages, Bissen said.

“It’s setup just like a company is, and it works great,” he said. “It gives you a lot more control over your business, and there’s tax advantages.”

The change to an incorporated farm isn’t the only way the farm has changed in Bissen’s 37 years on the job. When Bissen started, he’d plant crops on a small tractor without a covered cab, now they plant with tractors that steer automatically with GPS guidance.

Along with advances in technology, Bissen said hybrid seeds and changes in agronomy have been driving the industry. He even referred to a drought resistant strain of corn that he said isn’t too far into the future.

“All of that technology has really exploded,” he said. “It’s unbelievable what we can do today compared with what we had to work with 30 years ago.”

Bissen and his farm will be able to show off one feature of the farm most other Midwestern farms don’t have: a two-acre vineyard. They’ve had the vineyard for about four years, and Bissen said they sell the grapes to a winery.

Bissen and Kim have planted a lot of their crops early this year. They’re nearly finished with corn already, which Bissen said is nearly two weeks ahead of a typical year. If it gets cold, Bissen said the corn and soybeans would have a difficult time emerging from the ground. That could affect the yield of the crop.