During their pre-school years, if they weren’t trying to help with chores, Jody Berglund and her brother Jarid were busy playing farm together. “I don’t ever recall playing with Barbie dolls as a little girl,” says Jody. “Jarid and I would constantly play farm; we had a wooden barn, we built corrals out of Jenga blocks and had toy tractors and equipment. We would create the farm that we visualized we would operate one day.”
Fast-forward a couple of decades, and today, Jody, now 33, and Jarid, 35, are operating that farm for real.
And once again, it took quite a bit of construction, and also quite a bit of putting things together in ways that required imagination and weren’t always so obvious at first.
Today, farming together means lots of sharing, but also each operating their own farm business as a separate entity while focusing on an overall vision for the land that has been in their family for three generations.
The Berglund family farm near Kennedy, Sask., has always been highly diversified. In 1992, Jody and Jarid’s parents, Jack and Terry started a PMU business (pregnant mare’s urine, used for producing hormone supplements).
Seven years later, as that industry started to wane, they looked for other options and began to convert their grain and livestock operation over to organic production.
Today, Jarid and his wife, Brittany, farm Flying B Ranching Co., consisting of 2,500 acres of owned and rented land and 250 head of commercial Angus cattle.
In true Berglund style, they have also diversified into an oilfield service company.
“Brittany and I started farming in 2009 with my parents after we got married, and we bought our home quarter and three other quarters from them,” says Jarid.
“We also saw an opportunity to utilize our farm equipment in another way to increase cash flow for the farm, so we started our oilfield company, clearing snow and mowing lease roads. A couple years later we purchased a steamer as we saw that need in the oilfield community as well.”
The couple continue to rent land from their parents, who have retired from active farming but are still living on the home quarter.
It was also in 2009 that Jody purchased her first quarter of land at a public auction in Kennedy and continued to farm on the weekends, while also working for Canadian Western Agribition in Regina until she decided to farm full-time in 2014. Over the years she continued to grow her operation — J. Berglund Ag Ventures Ltd. — and now owns five quarters and rents an additional three. She does some contract work for Agribition and C5 Rodeo Company as well, and also works part-time for Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers and sells hail insurance.
In the saddle
Both Jody and Jarid grew up with horses on the farm and learned how to rope and break horses at an early age.
“I started roping when I was 10 and training colts when I was 13,” says Jarid. “Throughout my teenage years I trained, rode and sold quarter horses from the mares that we had in our PMU operation.”
Jarid competed in high school rodeo from grades 10 to 12 and went to Olds College where he competed on the rodeo team in tie down roping and steer wrestling while taking his degree in agriculture business. After completing college, he won a rodeo scholarship to Western Texas College, where he attended school for a year and learned how to weld, then rodeoed for several years while farming part time with his dad until he married Brittany and started farming full time.
“I have loved farming since I was a kid and always planned to come back to the farm,” says Jarid. “I had a few years where I rodeoed almost full time and was able to accomplish some goals with that but decided that farming was a more stable choice, and I also wanted to be home with my wife and kids and create a life together.”
Brittany was raised on a buffalo ranch near Grande Prairie, Alta., and says she grew up on the back of a horse from two years old. It was their shared passion for horses that led them to meet each other at Olds College, where Brittany was also on the rodeo team and taking an agriculture production degree, majoring in livestock.
After travelling for a while, Brittany attended Red Deer College where she obtained a diploma in applied physical education (kinesiology), but knew that she wanted to make a life on the farm. She and Jarid have three aspiring farmers — Tucker (six), Clyde (four) and Luke (two) who all love being a part of the daily life on the farm.
A feel for diesel
After graduating high school, Jody received a full volleyball scholarship to Panola College in Carthage, Texas. She later graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Montana State University Northern in business with a minor in diesel technology, so maybe those days spent playing with toy tractors was a precursor of what was to come.
“I took (diesel mechanics) because it presented an opportunity maybe off the farm and would also be a help to our farm,” says Jody.
Today, farming with Jarid, she knows she’s a very detail-orientated person, and so does he. And they also know she brings top value when she’s in charge of a service and maintenance plan for the equipment.
“My rule is that before any piece of equipment leaves the yard, the cab is clean, it’s full of fuel, oil is checked, air filters and radiators are blown out. I make sure that any malfunctions or leaks are looked after, and because I like working in a clean environment, having our shop and equipment clean is very important to me.”
Their farming arrangement works because both siblings have their own degree of independence and autonomy over their operations, while being able to bring their combined skills and shared vision together for the good of the whole farm operation.
“We’re both visionaries and leaders in our specific fields,” says Jody. “When we make a plan of what we’re doing that day, Jarid looks at the bigger picture of what we need to get done and I look at the details and what it takes to get it done.”
The Berglunds also give a lot of credit to their parents. With a diversified and busy farm to run, they instilled some important life lessons in their children from an early age, while not restricting their dreams or passions.
“We were always committed to our chores before and after school and we always worked on the farm during summers through high school and college,” says Jody. “We had to have those chores done before we could do all the extracurricular activities, but it was also important to our parents that we had every opportunity growing up.”
Translating the vision into details
Jarid and Jody’s overall goal — to have a growing, successful farm operation — is the same, but it’s also important that they maintain a professional business arrangement recognizing that each is operating their own business that needs to achieve profitability.
“We farm separately but work together, specifically in the busy seasons of seeding and harvest,” says Jarid. “We hire Jody to run a snow blower in the winter for our oilfield business, and the cattle operation is something that Brittany and I do on our own. If Jody does work for either of those enterprises, she is compensated for it.”
Flying B Ranching Co. owns the majority of the equipment and charges custom rates to Jody’s business, and she in turn charges back her hours for running the equipment. She also owns a combine and some tillage equipment and charges custom rates when they’re used for Jarid’s business.
During seeding Jarid runs the drill while Jody delivers inputs to the field. Then at harvest, Brittany and Jody run the combines while Jarid trucks and manages what is happening at the yard. Brittany does the administrative work for Flying B Ranching Co. and does day-to-day work in the cattle operation.
“When it comes to purchasing larger pieces of equipment, we have a lot of discussions about what piece of equipment our farm could use, the value and the financial investment we’d be willing to make,” adds Jody.
Each entity operates independently as far as what crops they are growing, and although they buy inputs separately, they often work together to source them. Jarid and Jody both market their grain, although they’ll each watch out for a good deal and combine their grain sales when it makes sense to do so.
Siblings inevitably argue or disagree. So when their livelihoods are this intertwined, how do this brother and sister deal with issues, and keep their personal and business relationships on track?
“Like most siblings we have our disagreements, but they tend to just blow over,” says Jarid. “It is difficult to separate business and personal relationships especially in a farming operation. Whenever we get together the conversation always goes back to farming.”
Probably the best way to deal with disagreements is to take a leaf from any good parent’s book and have a bit of a time-out.
It may not sound sophisticated, but it keeps things in perspective.
“We just take time apart if we have a disagreement, and it naturally dissolves itself and we come back and work together,” says Jody. “I don’t think there’s ever been an issue that has affected our personal relationship because we all value family and the need to support one another. We just handle our disagreements in a mature manner.”
But it works for a reason, and that reason has a lot to do with keeping the communication channels open.
It’s what keeps the Berglunds on the same page, and something they have integrated so thoroughly, they hardly pause to think about it on a daily basis. Jody captures the spirit of it in an instant. “I might think something may be irrelevant for Jarid to know, but I’ll still communicate it to him,” she says.
When the farm is busy, they have informal meetings every morning with a who-will-do-what focus. But they also keep the longer term in view. “Jarid and I are constantly envisioning our growth,” Jody says. “We have many discussions when we’re driving out to the field, or working in the shop, doing chores or working on a piece of equipment.”
Jody and Jarid both have business plans in place for their respective businesses, keeping in mind the overall goals of the whole farm.
“We believe that it is important to have goals and a vision for the future,” says Jarid. “Profitability and cash flow are always a concern and a high priority.”
Jody also is interested in the numbers and sees the value in planning ahead. “We’re in our growing stages, so I have a three-year, five-year, 10-year plan, but I would like to put more work into making it more comprehensive,” she says.
Time, of course, is the most precious resource on any busy farm, and even the best of business plans can get a bit neglected because of it, but the Berglunds do monitor their progress toward their goals.
“Jarid and I keep daily logs of everything that happens on the farm,” says Jody. “Then we come back to the business plan, and constantly look at where we can change things to do a better job.”
The family has also recently started formal succession planning discussions with consultant Merle Good. “We’re in the beginning stages … we have siblings that are off the farm, so we make sure they’re involved with this process too,” says Jody.
The fit is right
Jody and Jarid know of some other brother and sister farming partnerships among their peers, although none with exactly their arrangement. Will there be more?
It won’t just happen, they say. They point to the crucial role of their parents for giving them the opportunity to farm and, importantly, access to capital that they might not have been able to raise alone. In fact, capital is one of the biggest challenges they see, especially if there are multiple family members wanting to farm.
“I do think, going forward with the current instability in markets, weather and political climate, it won’t be as attractive for as many kids in one family to stay on the farm,” says Jarid. “So, I do feel that it will be less common to see these types of working relationships in the future.”
That said, they see opportunities for young farmers who tap into the strengths that come from networking and learning from each other, and also with others beyond the farm.
Jody sat on the board of the Saskatchewan Young Ag-Entrepreneurs and also served as a director on the Canadian Young Farmers Forum. “I went to a lot of their conferences and networked with young farmers from all over the country,” she says. “Just having other young farmers encourage and support one another as they go through this process of trying to make a living with farming is so important.”