Fresh out of college, Minnesota farmer Lily Bergman is ready to hit the fields

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Editor’s Note: Ann Bailey will be checking in with Lily Bergman throughout the growing season as part of our Follow a Farmer series.

OSLO, Minnesota — Lily Bergman is a part-time agricultural graduate while earning a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering to become a full-time agriculturalist and work part-time as an agricultural engineer.

At 22, Bergman has already spent half his life farming with his father, James Bergman. Dad and daughter have separate farms, but work together to grow and harvest their collective crops.

Lily Bergman is graduating from North Dakota State University on Saturday, May 14, 2022, with a degree in agricultural engineering.

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Young Bergman started helping out on her parents’ farm southeast of Oslo when she was in early primary school, and by the age of 11 was farming with her dad in the summer .

This year is the first year that Bergman will not have to work farming outside of his school hours. During her middle and high school years, she sandwiched agriculture between her classes and her extracurricular activities, and while graduating from North Dakota State University in Fargo, she went home on weekends to help harvest the crops.

Bergman drove the 105-mile drive from Fargo to the family farm every Friday after her last lesson of the day to help finish the day’s farm work and got up early Saturday morning to return to work on the harvest , often staying in the field until late at night.

Now Bergman is ready to focus on farming and looks forward to planting the 600 acres she leases from area landowners. This year, Bergman, like many farmers, is starting late because wet weather — first late winter snows, then early spring rains — made the fields too wet to plant.

“We’re way down on our driest ground, and we’ve got a lot of ground that’s still under water,” Bergman said May 16. Fields under water were flooded when the Red River, which has a channel through Oslo, spilled over its banks and stretched for thousands of acres a few miles to the east and east. west of town.

When the ground is ready, Bergman will plant sugar beets, pinto beans, soybeans and wheat, which are usually part of the crop rotation between her and her father.

“We’re a little heavy on wheat acres this year just because of the way commodity prices are sitting, a little less on beans,” Bergman said.

Late spring is frustrating because she knows there is potential for lower yields when planting is delayed.

A woman in a pink shirt and denim overalls greases the bearings of a green planter.
Lily Bergman prepares equipment while waiting for spring planting to begin on her parents’ farm near Oslo, Minnesota.

Trevor Peterson / Agweek

However, Bergman has had plenty of farming experience in other years where adverse weather has caused production problems, and she knows she has no control over that.

“We had many years where we weren’t in the field until the end of May and still got a good crop, so we just have to try to keep hope alive and know that things can still change.

“But yeah, we’re getting pretty anxious now,” Bergman said, with a wry smile.

In the previous five years, while she farmed 400 leased acres, Bergman’s fields had also alternately been too saturated in the fall to harvest, drowned out in the summer, and suffered yield losses from drought.

    A woman in a red and white flannel shirt and overalls stands next to a green combine harvester.
Lily Bergman, 22, has driven farm machinery for more than half her life and is comfortable using equipment like this combine she drove during the 2020 pinto bean harvest.

Ann Bailey/Agweek

In 2021, pinto beans were particularly hard hit by dry conditions and suffered “considerable” yield loss, Bergman said.

While she and her father wait to plant, they check the equipment and troubleshoot to avoid possible mechanical problems. On May 16, Bergman was greasing the 48 grease fittings on the Bergman 24-row seeder and checking the boxes to make sure they were in good condition.

“Trying to fine-tune everything so that when it’s time to go we don’t break down and everything runs like a well-oiled machine,” Bergman said.

As she works and waits to get back in the tractor pulling the planter, Bergman looks forward to the many growing seasons ahead.

“I hope to be a farmer, always. I like the variety of work and being outdoors, running your own business,” she said.

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