Dollars to start

Tom Grzadzieleski Jr. is taking the plunge. The 26-year-old from Drayton, N.D., is a beginning farmer and is making use of the USDA’s Beginning Farmer Loan Program to buy land.

In 2009, after several years of working on his family’s farm in the summer and working off the farm in the winter, Grzadzieleski rented 380 acres and grew sugarbeets and wheat.

In 2010, he rented 770 acres and grew sugarbeets, wheat and soybeans. He recently purchased 76 acres with financing from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Key Points

The Farm Service Agency helps finance beginning farmers and ranchers.

Borrowers say the FSA program “is a great help.”

The money can be used for land, livestock and machinery


“I couldn’t have bought land if it wasn’t for the beginning farmer program,” Grzadzieleski says. He was able to borrow the principal and the down payment, and is currently paying 1.5% interest. “It’s a great program for someone just starting out,” he says.

More experiences

Other beginning farmers in the Dakotas are equally enthusiastic.

Blake Hojer, DeSmet, S.D., started out as an FSA youth borrower and has since purchased both land and cattle through the beginning farmer loan program.

The program has worked so well that his younger brother and sister, who are both still in college, are taking advantage of it, too.“It’s a benefit to help a person to get going,” Hojer says.

Lee Widdel, Minot, N.D., who graduated from North Dakota State University in May 2010, has built his farm from seven bred cows (obtained in 2002 with a FSA youth farm loan) to a 1,520-acre ranch. The FSA has financed land, cattle and equipment purchases.

“You can’t beat this program,” he says. “It’s great that the government takes a chance on you.”You don’t have to be in your 20s to take advantage of the beginning farmer program.

Janet Toman, 47, Carter, S.D., recently bought land with the FSA’s help. She and her husband, Melvin, had been ranching with his parents and needed to establish their own operation. The FSA helped them purchase land. With the purchased land, as well as some they lease, they have enough grass for their cow herd.

“If we wouldn’t have gotten in with FSA, we would probably be working in town rather than ranching,” she says.

First-opportunity lender

FSA officials are as enthusiastic about the program as beginning farmers and ranchers are.“People used to think of FSA as the lender of last resort,” says Gail Gullickson, a South Dakota FSA staff member. “We are very fortunate to be the lender of first opportunity for many beginning farmers and ranchers.”

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GOOD START: Tom Grzadzieleski Jr. checks the progress of sugarbeets on his own land, which he recently purchased with a Farm Service Agency beginning farmer loan.

This article published in the March, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.