Hard Earned Farm Life Prized As 78-Year-Old Linn County Cow-Calf Operator Moves Forward

“If you want to do something, you’re going to have to make it happen. Don’t leave it to somebody else.”

That advice was taken to heart decades ago by Dave Berglund who continues going strong in his diversified farming operation.

While most of such maturity are in their rocking chair or even passed on, the 78-year-old LaCygne stockman keeps busy at Berglund Farms.

“There’s no reason to slow down,” Berglund said. “I enjoy the farm life especially raising cattle and growing the crops to feed them.

“Those who quit and retire usually don’t last long,” he added. “There were 18 in my graduating class at Stanley and there are only four of us left. I plan to keep right on farming.”

Past retirement age for many, Dave Berglund, 78, keeps busy looking after 300 stock cows and growing their feed at his Linn County farm.

Growing up in Johnson County where his family had a dairy operation, Berglund said, “We really didn’t have much. But I always liked the farm life and knew that’s what I wanted to do.

“Yet I had to admit it would take some off-farm income to be successful,” he continued. “We’ve been blessed that’s for sure, but nobody ever gave us anything. We’ve had to work for what we have.”

Employed 42 years as a lineman for Kansas City Power & Light, Berglund and his wife Patsy built the operation from scratch.

With off-farm jobs, Patsy and Dave Berglund worked after hours and weekends to build their Berglund Farms near LaCygne in Linn County.

“We worked evenings and weekends, were always conservative and fortunate along the way,” he admitted. “We didn’t take vacations. Coming home from regular day work to farm and look after the livestock was our vacation.”

Raising four children, the couple had smaller Johnson and Miami county acreages before locating in Linn County 30 years ago.

“Patsy had a good job at the Linn County Farm Service Agency for 25 years, so that sure helped along the way,” Berglund credited. “Our children always had their farm chores too while participating in community and school activities.”

Starting with a 60-acre tract in Linn County, the farm has grown to about 800 acres owned by Berglund.

“We also rent about that much more,” he noted. “When times were the toughest in the 1980s, land values dropped. It was hard on lots of operations, but created an opportunity for us.

“With prices sharply lower than years before, we bought more land,” Berglund continued “Interest rates were the highest ever, 22-percent at one point. But with our off-farm incomes and the whole family working night and day, we finally came out on top.

“It wasn’t easy and took a long time,” he emphasized.

Of the acreage under Berglund management, there is about 300 acres of cropland. “We are able to raise the feed for our 300 stock cows,” he said.

Despite changing weather conditions, Dave Berglund remains dedicated to caring for the cowherd at his LaCygne farm. It rained and snowed last week, but the Linn County farmer trudged through mud to put out cattle mineral.

“We started out with nine Hereford cows and have built the operation slowly saving back our own replacements,” Berglund explained.

Today, the herd is mostly red and black Angus cows. “I raised purebred Herefords for a while, but there isn’t much of a market for those calves anymore,” Berglund claimed. “I still like Herefords for the disposition, reproductive ability, and longevity, but Angus calves sell better.”

His son Steve Berglund has a Red Angus herd supplying red bulls while Black Angus has also been used for breeding. “I have a few Herefords but mostly red and black cows,” Berglund qualified.

Initially planning a spring calving operation, Berglund said, “Nature doesn’t always follow what is recommended for cowherd management. I know how long it takes to build a herd by saving back heifers.

“So I’m inclined to give my cows a chance to breed back again if they miss a cycle,” he continued. “Therefore, my calf crop is spread out with more opportunities to sell off the cows at different seasons.”

Still conscientious for profitability, the stockman said, “If a cow gets fat, doesn’t breed, I’m forced to sell her.”

While many farmers today have a large line of new machinery, Berglund generally continues to use what he has.

“I did get a new baler recently, but I’ve had most of my machinery for a long time,” he said. “I do the majority of my own repair work when I can and always follow regular maintenance.”

As busy as he’s been with fulltime employment and building the farming operation, Berglund has served his community.

Family is important to Dave and Patsy Berglund (center) as they had a family portrait taken during a holiday gathering at their Berglund Farms near LaCygne in Linn County.

“I was on the Linn County Fair Board about 30 years,” he said. “It’s been awhile, but I’ve turned that over to the younger generation those with a vested interest in the fair.”

Quality entertainment is important for a county fair and Berglund had a special knack contracting acts for the Linn County Fair.

“Reba McEntire was the entertainer one year before she became so popular. It rained and they were going to cancel her show, but I insisted on having it inside,” he remembered. “The show went on with two sellout crowds.”

After that Berglund was instrumental in developing county fair entertainment.

“I worked with a couple of different agencies, became acquainted with their officials,” he said. “Garth Brooks and Asleep at the Wheel were among some of the other best known entertainers. We were able to work out deals with their agents so the fair still made some money.”

Berglund’s farm successes must be attributed to conservative lifestyle as well as work ethic.

“Most of my coworkers and those who I went to school with enjoyed their nightlife,” he commented. “I tried to smoke once when I was 15-years-old didn’t like it and never tried that again. I never had any urge to overconsume alcohol beverages either. None of it appealed to me.”

Losing his oldest daughter Sherry to a car accident several years ago, Berglund is proud of his two daughters Paula and Lisa and son Steve.

“They are all quite successful. Our seven grandchildren (four girls and three boys) and our two great-grandsons are allvery special to us,” he declared.

Looking ahead, “One never knows what the next day will bring,” Berglund acknowledged. “But I appreciate the opportunity to live and work the land and will still be doing just that.”