Brandvolds of Ryder are a busy, active farm and ranch family
The coronavirus pandemic isn’t the first challenge that Lee and Julie Brandvold have faced together in their farming operation.
“We currently grow wheat, canola, soybeans and flax for cash crops. We also raise millet, oats, hay barley and silage corn to use in our cattle operation as feed,” said Julie Brandvold. “We have faced several challenges in the farming and ranching operation,” said Julie Brandvold. “We have farmed through drought years, excess moisture and flooding. During the drought years, the crops could be as low as 5 bushel to the acre. The excess moisture years, crops were unplanted due to either wet fields, or roads being impassable to get equipment to the fields. High moisture years also causes crop disease problems which reduces the yields and diminished the quality of the grain. Therefore, the elevators would reduce the prices. The quality of the grain during the diseased years would be reduced to a low feed value, if it was even accepted for feed, due to a high vomitoxin level. High vomitoxin can be dangerous to an animal’s health. In the drought years, it was always a challenge to find enough hay for the cattle. We were very fortunate to have friends and neighbors that allowed us to put up their CRP for hay to make it through these times.
“COVID-19 has really challenged our operation on the farm and ranch. The price dropped for our cattle and hit us hard. The prices dropped due to processing plants that were shut down and there was a backlog of beef cattle that could not be butchered. It is sad when you hear the grocery stores can’t keep beef on the shelf and we are sitting with beef calves that should be sold, but the prices were so low, we could not cover expenses. We have still been able to purchase most products that our farm and require. However, we are finding that prices we pay are on the rise (supposedly) due to COVID-19 related transportation issues. Going forward today we are concerned about the drought conditions. Long term concerns are the global economy. We no longer farm with only concerns of what happens in the United States. We are affected by crop and livestock conditions that include the entire world. It is not only weather related issues that will affect our farm and ranch, but also the political issues.”
Julie Brandvold joined her husband on the farm east of Ryder after their marriage in 1997. Lee Brandvold had bought the farm from Jim and Phyllis Bowen in 1983, when he was just 18. Both of the Brandvolds also worked full time off the operation in addition to farming. Lee Brandvold worked as an agricultural diesel mechanic for 17 years in addition to farming and ranching full time and Julie worked full time as a travel consultant for AAA in Minot for 15 years and helped with the farming and ranching operation when she got home.
Their daughter, Shelsey, 15, and son Stetson, 12, also are involved in the operation. Both attend school in Max and are busy with 4-H, doing welding, woodworking, creative art, leather work, photography and grains. They also are community minded, said their mom, and have helped out with community service projects like making tie blankets for people who live at the assisted living center in Garrison, planting flowers in the local communities and making goody trays that they deliver to people in the area. The kids attend 4-H Achievement Day and enter their projects in the State Fair. Julie Brandvold is also a 4-H leader, so she said it is a family affair.
Shelsey Brandvold, who her mom said is interested in becoming a veterinarian, also joined the FFA organization and has learned and developed skills outside the classroom. Her mother said she received a National FFA grant last year to help start a cattle herd by purchasing a few bred heifers. She received a grant from the state FFA organization this year to add to her herd. Stetson Brandvold is also getting into the family business and purchased heifers to start his own cattle herd.
“The kids still make time to help out on the farm on a daily basis,” said Julie Brandvold. “On the ranch they are continually helping with the cattle (and) being involved in every part of it from birthing the calves, vaccination, fixing fence and getting ready to turn cattle to pasture. They help put up the hay, haul hay home, feed the cattle and haul the manure out. On the farming side of things, they help move equipment, work on equipment and Stetson will run the grain cart in the field. When needed Shelsey will run the self-propelled swather.”
Stetson Brandvold enjoys old farm equipment and likes seeing antiques at threshing shows. His mom said he is the process of restoring an H International tractor, which he proudly drives in the Makoti Threshing Show. She said Stetson’s other projects include a W6 tractor, WD9 tractor and a model T Truck.
The Brandvolds are also very active in the community. Both drive a school bus for the Max school district and Julie Brandvold also fills in when needed as a paraprofessional and works in the school kitchen when needed. Both hold offices on the local Cameron Township Board. Julie Brandvold is the District 6 Director for the Ward county Township Officers Association and Lee Brandvold is the president of the North Dakota State Township Officers Association. Julie Brandvold was also involved with the startup of the Dinner on the Prairie event, which she said is an educational event that connects farms to consumers and educates the public about where their food comes from. The event was called off last year but there are plans to hold it this year in the first week in August.
Julie Brandvold said they all enjoy their life in farming and ranching.
“What we enjoy most about farming and ranching is the clean, quiet living (and the) wide open space of being on a ranch, the privilege of being self-employed and being your own boss,” she said. “We all truly enjoy seeing what spring brings. From all the new baby animals, including the calves that are part of our operation, the planting of the crops, watching the new crop emerge and all pastures and fields turning green with anticipation of a productive and profitable year.”