On The Move- One's Passion for Being Involved
‘Sitting still’ is not in the vocabulary of Dan Erickson. A farmer, a father, an advocate for agriculture, an involved community member, a volunteer firefighter for 18 years and a Compeer Financial Board Member, Erickson isn’t content unless he’s involved.
“I’m one of those people who can’t sit around,” explained Erickson. “I get antsy.”
Erickson grew up on the dairy farm his parents bought in the early 1970s, just outside of Alden in southern Minnesota. After earning his degree from South Dakota State University, getting married and working a few off-farm jobs, Erickson came back to work his own farming operation and help his father.
“Dad sold the dairy right before I came back. I rented my first piece of land in 2000 and we started custom raising dairy heifers,” Erickson explained. “Our transition planning started right when I began farming. Our financial officer at Compeer was instrumental in helping us work through the transition to figure out the loan structure and plan carefully. As my parents started slowing down over time, I kept pushing forward to rent and buy more to get us where we are at now.”
Today Erickson Family Farms includes 1,300 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and custom raises 350 dairy heifers. Together with his wife Jenny, who is a special education teacher, they have three children — Grace (19), Tyler (16) and Karina (13).
A love of farming is already apparent in the next generation as the kids regularly pitch in to help on the farm, along with showing animals for 4-H and FFA at multiple shows over the summer.
Building a Community of Peers
Erickson relies on the expertise of many people connected to his operation, his financial officer, his attorney, his CPA, his seed and chemical reps, but he’s also turned to a group of peers for advice and ideas.
“Our peer network started with about four buddies, roughly the same age, who also farm,” Erickson said. “We’d casually get together and would naturally talk about all things farming. So, we decided to formalize it and today the peer group includes seven farms of all sizes within a 100 mile radius.”
And because they’ve built a community of trust, the group is able to talk openly about many things.
“We talk candidly about our financials and our cost of production — but we trust the people we’re with,” Erickson explains. “The things I’ve picked up from this group have been invaluable. We bounce ideas off each other and learn from each other. We all do little trials in our cropping operations and I’ve actually changed some of my practices because of what I’ve learned from others — like sidedressing a lot of my nitrogen later in the season and adding a late-season fungicide, which I never used to do.”
Erickson says they’ve formalized their meetings, getting together about three times a year with an agenda and they even bring in speakers to talk with the group.
Serving on Compeer’s Board
It was talk in the peer group that ultimately lead Erickson to run for Compeer’s Board of Directors. One day the group realized they had a lot of stake in Compeer as borrowers, but no one had further involvement in the cooperative.
“The idea to run for Compeer’s Board of Directors was born as a result of that discussion,” Erickson reflected. “I’ve always believed in being involved off the farm. My passion for agriculture, paired with the enjoyment I have for figuring out finances, was a good fit with Compeer. I treat my role on the Board as a job and I never lose sight of my role in serving our member-owners.”
Now in his second term on the Board, Erickson says he’s proud of the solid foundation Compeer has built in the short five years since it was formed after a merger.
“We had a lot of expectations and goals as part of the merger,” Erickson explained. “Things like strong profitability, an increased capital base, strong reputation in the territory and more. We not only hit all of the targets, but exceeded all of the goals we set when we formed Compeer. And that’s resulted in benefits for our members through things like record patronage payouts.”
For Erickson, serving member-owners is central to his role on the Board.
“As a Board member, I have to take my farmer hat off and put my Compeer business hat on — but I never lose sight of what’s going on at home,” Erickson said. “It’s important to make the switch so I’m making decisions that are in the best interest of the cooperative and our member-owners, not my own operation. I’m looking at the big picture when I’m sitting in the Board room.”
While planning for the future of the cooperative as a Board member, Erickson also looks forward to the future of his operation.
“I was fortunate to have parents willing to work through a transition plan,” he says. “With my kids on the farm, the next generation is already putting in hard work and with any luck, I hope we can continue the legacy.”
This article was originally printed in the Winter 2022 edition of Compeer Financial's Cultivate magazine.