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We broke ground yesterday on our sow expansion project.  There wasn’t a golden shovel to scoop the first dirt.  No press to capture the moment in photos.  All that was needed was a backhoe, a willing crew, and sunny weather. Thankfully, we had all three.

A farmer’s work day is always long, but now Brandon’s days will become extra-long.  Yesterday he started work at 6am, took a 10 minute lunch, snuck away to Maddie’s junior high concert from 7-8:30pm, went back to work and finished up around midnight.  Although the days are long, I think Brandon is really glad to be moving forward with the project finally.  Planning and doing all of the groundwork gets long and feels unproductive.

Training for a half marathon sometimes feels that way… it gets long and sometimes feels unproductive.  I’m trying a different approach to the training this year.  I’m only running 3-4 days a week in hopes of staying injury free.  We’ll see how this approach works and if my final time suffers because of it.  Seven weeks to go!

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As I’ve been spending time training for the Duluth 1/2 marathon, Brandon has been working on plans for expanding our farm.  A lot has changed since the last time we expanded in 1997.

In 1997 Brandon was 25 years old with relatively little hog experience and not much of a track record in agriculture.  The steps it took to get a loan for a 1600 sow expansion were few and the biggest challenge was convincing Grandpa Schafer that expanding the sow herd was a wise idea.

Flash forward to 2011.  Today we are looking at doing an expansion that is half of what we were tackling in 1997, but the requirements from our lending company have been ten times what they were in 1997.  From balance sheets to building plans, from hog health status to manure management, the list of requirements seems to be never-ending to me.  Brandon is a patient man who thrives on planning and implementing those plans, so jumping through all of the hoops doesn’t seem to bother him.

I figured that Brandon’s production records would speak for themselves.  He has created a fine-tuned system  in our sow unit, with pig numbers any producer would be happy to have.  But times continue to change in agriculture and the challenge to run a profitable business continues to increase.  Lending company’s seem to have an inflated concern about the perceived risk in agriculture.  Regardless of whether this concern is legitimate, we have to follow the lending company’s rules in order to secure funding and expand our business.  This is where passion comes in.  It’s our love of farming that keeps us moving forward in the challenging industry of agriculture.