Welcome to our farm blog.
I’m Heather Mundt. A long time ago, I used to imagine where I would live if I could move back to the country. I was a reporter, living in the city and reporting on the rural life in the area. I missed living that country life. I had grown up in the country. We had horses, dogs, cats and when I was really little we also had Jersey milk cows. I loved riding our horses. My sisters and I, we were so blessed to get lessons and go to horse shows. We weren’t like crazy rich, but my parents worked hard and they gave us a loving, disciplined home to grow up in. Basically, my childhood was awesome and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Then I grew up and decided I wanted to write for a living, so I got my diploma in print journalism and I got a job writing for a newspaper. I enjoyed my life in the city but it was never what I really wanted. I longed for a quiet, secluded yard surrounded by a little forest of trees. I would do my job, report on the stories, and daydream of my life in the country. I did that for a few years, until Brenton came along.
He came into my world through church friends. Brenton had moved to the city to work as a concrete pump operator because he had been raising cattle and lost everything during the BSE crisis in 2005. The cattle markets were hit hard in those years but Brenton’s losses in cattle brought him to the city to find something money couldn’t buy, me.
He saw me at church with a white hoodie that had a beautiful Arabian horse on the back and he knew right away that he had to meet me. So he started hanging out with me and my friends.
Brenton was doing very well in concrete and was often showing off for me with fancy motorbikes and taking us all out for supper. I didn’t like him at first. I gave him the cold shoulder, declining his invitations to go out, but he was persistent. I had always wanted a man who would work hard to get me, and Brenton proved himself worthy. One night, after about six months of being friends, we were out for supper with our usual crew and he asked if anyone wanted to go see a movie. It was like a light switch turned on and I looked over at him and said. . . yes. It wasn’t long and we were married.
Very soon after getting married, Brenton’s old back injuries made it impossible for him to keep doing the concrete work. Brenton took pride in his concrete pump and he loved the paychecks but he grew up with cows and farming and that’s always where his heart has really been. So he asked me if I wanted to move back to his hometown and go farming with him and his parents. . .
Huge financial risks?
Doing something completely new to me that I knew zippity zap about?
And moving two hours away from the city to a place where I knew absolutely no one?
I had only one question, “What are we waiting for?”
Despite the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about farming, I had complete confidence in Brenton. It felt like going on an adventure! And that it has been. Complete with ups and downs like a roller coaster ride but also with huge personal growth like I’d never had before. Marrying Brenton and going farming has been the absolute best thing that I’ve ever done. It’s also been the hardest thing and I’ve had times where I doubted if we would make it but in the big picture I can’t imagine my life any other way.
We moved out to the farm around October 2007 and we purchased some calves to raise for the winter. I can still remember the first time Brenton put me in a tractor.
“Turn on the PTO” he said.
“What’s a PTO?” I replied.
Farming basics 101: the Power Take Off takes power from the tractor and turns on whatever machine you are attached to. It’s essentially the power button.
I’ve been learning about farming ever since and I love it more every year. Remind me to tell you about the time I was running the hay cutter (it’s called a haybine) and it got a flat tire – a mile away from my car – and my phone died – and Brenton couldn’t see me because he was over a hill. Fun memories of walking through the grasshoppers with my arms hugging my purse like a baby against my chest while whispering to the flying insects, “please fly away from me, please fly away from me.” I can stand them, as long as they are not on me. Or too near me. Or at least going away from me.
After we sold the calves in the spring of 2008, we decided to get out of cattle because the market prices were still very low at the time. We went from Brenton’s big happy concrete paychecks to arguing over whether or not we should spend $5 on a movie rental (back when people actually went to a store to rent dvds, lol). Cattle was not a big money maker in those days. But around that time we also discovered the alfalfa hay market in the USA. We decided to specialize in alfalfa hay and Brenton’s talent for farming really started to shine.
We started out with an old Hesston baler, which Brenton nicknamed “Many Bales”, because it’s made so many bales over it’s lifetime. Brenton taught me how to run a baler with that old Hesston. We actually still have it but it’s long been retired.
We purchased our first Krone baler the following year. Brenton and his Dad spent about a week on one field learning how it worked and how to get it to make bales. That baler broke almost every bale on that first field but it was the school of hard knocks and they learned pretty much everything they needed to know about Krones.
We have three Krone balers now and we still believe they are the best. In those early years we shipped thousands of tons of hay to the US markets (feedlots, exporters and dairies). Brenton has gotten so good at making hay that he can predict a day ahead if we will be able to bale the swaths.
We also did a few big years of grain farming as well, renting thousands of acres of land and harvesting hundreds of thousands of bushels of wheat, barley, peas and canola. But the grain farming just didn’t fulfill that passion in our hearts. It was fun and Brenton took pride in building gigantic piles of grain but it also landed us in a pile of debt and Brenton started to get really fed up dealing with the grain elevators where we sold our grain.
As the hay business grew, we often found ourselves with some bales that just weren’t good enough to sell. Mistake bales. Well, Brenton had always missed having those cattle around and it just made sense to have a few that could eat up our mistakes. So we stopped renting the grain land, rented more alfalfa acres and we bought 20 head of cattle in 2016.
It was love at first sight all over again. I might be tempted to be jealous except that I love the cows as much as Brenton does. It’s funny, that we bought them to eat up our mistakes and yet the first bale they got when they arrived was some of our best hay. Brenton loves feeding cows and taking the absolute best possible care of them.
It wasn’t long before 20 cows turned into over 150 cows and then into 300 cows. And this is where we are now. We still farm some grain because the alfalfa crops have to be rotated with other crops. That’s farming lingo for changing what a field grows. One field may grow alfalfa for 5-10 years but then you have to kill the alfalfa and seed a different crop, like wheat, and that is called rotating crops.
We also had two precious boys born to us. Henry in 2009 and Caleb in 2011. When we first got married, Brenton and I talked about how many kids we wanted and we thought definitely four, maybe five but we’ll see. That all sounds great until you have two kids and your thyroid shuts down and your exhausted 24/7. I have since recovered from hypothyroidism, but that’s another story.
Now we live, happily, sometimes stress-fully, but always optimistically on our family farm. We have chickens and a couple of milk cows. We started growing some organic crops in 2017 and we are learning how to use our cattle to improve our crop land. I’ve got so many stories to tell you guys and the journalist in me can hardly wait to make you laugh, cry and maybe wonder if we are totally insane while we continue on this adventure called farming.