Family History: Three generations talk challenges, opportunity05/13/2019 | Soybean News, Ag Awareness, Economics
This article was originally published in the Spring issue of the Iowa Soybean Review, which features stories celebrating those who have contributed to the legacy of excellence in agriculture that has been ingrained in ISA since its inception 55 years ago.
By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer
For six generations, the Bardole family in Rippey has weathered all sorts of challenges in farming. They’ve not only been able to keep their century farms intact, but they’ve also done so with an emphasis on doing things better.
“Dad always tried to reach for a way to farm better. Better for us, better for the soil, better for the water. That was the theme: How do I do it better?” says Roy Bardole.
Roy passed that same thinking on to his sons, Pete and Tim, who came back to the family farm in the 1990s.
Since then, they’ve implemented a variety of practices — like a no-till cropping system and cover crops — to help preserve the soils.
Today, Tim’s son, Schyler, the sixth generation on the family’s farm, is using a drone to scout the family’s fields and better analyze the nutrient needs from farm to farm.
The real challenges
All six generations have faced one common challenge, Roy says.
“How do you make it profitable?”
It’s never been easy making money while farming, Roy says, noting that his father farmed during the Great Depression. Roy was farming during the farm crisis of the 1980s.
“In the 80s, the bank tried to foreclose on us. If there was a most difficult time in agriculture for me that was it. To think that great granddad, granddad and dad farmed the land and made a go of it. And when I started farming, I was going to lose it. I cannot tell you how deeply that cuts you,” Roy says.
They were able to sell an 80-acre field that wasn’t part of the family’s century farms to a brother. The family continues to farm it today.
Tim and Pete farmed through the downturns in the market during the 1990s.
“It was right after the 80s, and things were tight. It was a struggle to make enough to live on,” Tim recalls.
They added more sows and grew their farrow-to-finish hog operation, which supported their crop enterprises. Slowly, they were able to buy and rent more farmland.
“That gave Pete and me a cushion,” Tim says. “We actually made money.”
Schyler grew up doing hog chores and working on the farm, but the thought of farming with his dad, his uncle and his grandfather wasn’t at the top of his mind until he was a student at Central College in Pella. Then, he figured it would take 10 years to get his start in farming.
In 2013, Schyler’s future father-in-law, Wayne King, lost his life in a farming accident. King’s daughter, Lauren, now Schyler’s wife, was interested in farming. The couple purchased 95 acres of the family’s century farm in Adaza, north of Churdan. Today, they farm an additional 205 acres.
“It’s unfortunate how we were able to get our start, but my wife and I are very happy that we have this opportunity,” he says.
Those acres are also part of a century farm. In total, the Bardoles farm three Iowa century farms.
And not unlike his family’s acres, Schyler has seen challenging weather — from drought to deluge — and fluctuating market conditions.
Some things really do stay the same, Tim says.
“Working is the easy part. It’s trying to make everything pencil out that’s hard,” says Tim, president-elect of the Iowa Soybean Association.
Making it work
Each generation has relied on diversification as a way to support its crop operations. The family raised livestock, did some custom trucking, grain hauling and custom extruding. Today, the family does custom strip-till, spraying, cover crop seeding and harvesting.
They’re also adding hog barns to the farm. It’s a way to provide an opportunity for the seventh generation — Schyler and Lauren’s 15-month-old son, Adam.
“I looked at a variety of things — everything from raising crickets to buffalo, but through research I found that raising hogs was the best option for us,” Schyler says. The barns are expected to be filled this summer.
He’s not only thinking of it as an opportunity for him but like his dad and five other generations of the Bardole family, he’s considering the next generation.
“I want to make sure that I farm and prepare in a way that if my son Adam or any other kids we might have will be able to consider farming,” Schyler says. “If they don’t want to, that’s their choice. But, I don’t want the lack of opportunity to be the barrier of why they don’t farm.”
Despite the challenges, Schyler is optimistic about farming's future.
“It doesn’t matter how bad or how good it gets, there’s always next year,” he says. “That’s how I look at it, and that’s how dad, grandpa, great grandpa and great-great grandpa all did it.”
Contact Bethany Baratta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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