From one generation to the next
Third-generation farmer tends family land
A lot of families in North Dakota own farmland and when the parents are ready to retire, the next generation takes over. Ron Kramer inherited the original farmstead near Douglas that his grandfather started back in 1930. It is now a total of 13 quarters of small grains and oil crops.
Kramer is a third-generation farmer and grew up on the farmstead, helping his parents and grandparents from a young age. Until his junior year of high school, he was undecided about whether or not he wanted to be the next to tend the land and care for the livestock. His older brother was considering the role, but he decided to pursue another path in life.
Kramer was the youngest boy, and because none of his older siblings wanted to take over, he decided to do it.
Before running the operation by himself, he went to the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton for three years. The first two earned him his associate’s degree in farm business management and agriculture mechanics. For the last year, he took classes on diesel mechanics so he could repair his own equipment.
NDSCS was where he met his wife. She was persuing a major in liberal arts, then transferred to Minot State University to be a medical secretary.
Together, they run things on the farm and take care of their children. The crops they will be planting this year are canola, spring wheat and soybeans.
“Spring wheat is an old staple for our farm,” Kramer said.
As of April 23, Kramer had hopes of planting during the first week of May, giving the ground a little more time to warm up.
His spring wheat seed comes from North Dakota State University, and others are from other local ag suppliers. Which supplier he gets it from depends on availability, price and which ones have the most desirable traits.
In previous years, he had planted durum, oats and barley. He bases his choice of crops one to two years in advance, determining which ones are the most economically viable.
Crop rotations allow for potential diseases and chemical cycles to break up and pose less of a risk for the next season. In the fall, chemical suppliers call and ask about Kramer’s input, which fertilizer he wants and which seeds he’ll be using.
NDSU also provides spreadsheets on its website. Farmers can plug in their numbers to help them make a decision on which crops will be the most viable and what their return will be. Kramer said the results are usually theoretical.
“I’m just mystified by people’s perception of agriculture,” he admitted.
Some believe farmers are the ones who profit from the rise in grain prices. In fact, “it’s the middle man that does.” When grain prices go up, so does the prices of cereals. He voiced his prediction that the prices of cereals may not go back down.
Kramer brought up a study he read about, which proved and showed valid evidence the adhesive that holds the cereal boxes together is more expensive than its contents.
“There’s a misperception of how farmers are profiting from high grain prices,” he continued. “When grain goes up (in price), so does fertilizer and other inputs.”
Farmers have a high flow of money, but because of all the expenses to keep it going, “it’s hard to hang on to.”
In addition to growing crops, Kramer has Angus cattle. When it comes to the ranching side of his operations, Angus is the primary. He does have a few chickens, but he keeps them around for personal use. Farm cats roam around, acting as mousers to keep the rodent population down.
To keep the herds in order, his red heeler-Australian shepherd mix dog rounds them up. His border collie-Australian shepherd dog used to herd the cows, too, but he’s older and has really slowed down.
“He’s more of a spoiled pet now than a herding dog,” Kramer said. The heeler mix is still a puppy so there’s plenty of energy to go around.
Kramer lives on the original farmstead with his wife and three children. He and his wife used to be 4-H leaders, but they’re not active anymore. He was also part of the Douglas Fire Department for 12 years, serving his community in more ways than just one.
His two boys are in FFA and the oldest was awarded the American FFA Degree, which is the highest degree that can be earned. It shows he is very dedicated to his chapter and the FFA association as a whole. Both sons participate in crop judging and other events.
His daughter, however, is not interested in the trade. She is more into music, singing, playing the saxophone, piano and clarinet. Kramer said she won a state singing contest. Drama is her other interest at school in Max where all three of the children attend.
Kramer also gives his children the same choice that his parents gave him.
“If they don’t want to work on the farm, they don’t have to,” Kramer said. “They can pursue their own careers.
“You have to love farming,” he stated. “No one else would want to work those hours.”
Farming is indeed difficult work, long hours in the fields and many hours in the sun. There are parts of the job that are good and others that aren’t.
“As the old adage goes, ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,'” he said.