Young Farmers Find Their Way Through Diversification
Kruger Inc. isn’t your typical Wisconsin dairy farm. Ross and Becky Kruger are young farmers from Eleva,
in western Wisconsin, who have found their place on the family farm through diversification.
“My grandpa Elmer bought the home farm in the 1940s, and it is still in the family today,” Ross explained. “In the 1970s, my dad and uncle expanded to an 80-cow dairy, which we still operate.”
Ross’s parents Greg and Kaye, wife Becky, brother Dylan and Dylan’s fiancée Addie are all active on the farm. Ross and Becky are also the proud parents of three daughters—Jayden (4), Raegan (2) and Peyton (3 months). Dylan and Addie have a 6-year-old son, Tristan.
When Ross and Dylan were ready to take on more ownership in the farm, the family realized they needed to expand beyond dairy.
“Our model is diversification — we didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket and knew the farm needed to support more than just my parents,” Ross shared.
SWINE IN AMERICA’S DAIRYLAND
In 2014, the family built a 5,600-head sow farm, which Ross and Becky manage. The facility is breed-to-wean, generating about 2,800 weaned piglets each week.
“I had no previous experience in the swine industry, but being in Wisconsin with few other pigs around, we have low disease pressure, making it an ideal location to raise replacement gilts,” Ross explained. “I spent time learning the ins and outs of managing a sow farm while our barn was being built.”
The family also operates five over-the-road semis that haul agricultural products, paper and steel throughout the Midwest and the South.
What’s more, the Krugers grow 1,200 acres of alfalfa, corn, soybeans and rye.
“Our diversification keeps the operations running,” Becky noted. “The dairy supports the swine operation, the manure supports the crops, the trucking business hauls the crops and so on.”
BREAKING NEW GROUND
When Ross and Becky attended Compeer Financial’s GroundBreakers Conference in early 2022, they gained a new perspective from other beginning farmers.
“One of the first things we changed after the conference was to start using QuickBooks, which simplified our records throughout the year and will make yearend tax prep a breeze,” Becky noted. “We’ve also learned a lot about cover crops, which is something we want to implement. It was helpful to hear from others at the conference who are using cover crops to learn from their mistakes and successes.”
The Krugers’ advice for other young and beginning farmers is to surround yourself with as many great people as you can.
“Everyone wants to see you succeed,” Becky said. “Success doesn’t come easy, but it is easier with good help along the way.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The Kruger family has big goals for the future that include expanding their trucking business and growing the cash crop operation in both acres and improved land conservation. The family’s diversification has kept the farm running strong for three generations, with the fourth ready to take on some early responsibilities in the coming years.
“No matter what our dreams and goals have been in the past, Compeer has been with us to help us achieve them, not just by providing the financing, but by providing expertise and guidance,” Ross said. “We are sure that Compeer will remain an essential part of our operation now and in the future.”
This article was originally printed in the Fall 2022 edition of Compeer Financial's Cultivate magazine.