Benson has long dreamed of farming

RUSHFORD, Minn. — Tyler Benson knew he wanted to be a farmer when he was just a boy playing in his sandbox.

Benson, now 26, runs a 30-cow commercial beef herd and raises 35 acres of soybeans, 30 acres of corn and 25 acres of hay. In the summer, he raises feeder pigs to finishing size for family consumption.

He does construction work to earn income to support his farming. He also trades labor for machinery with his grandfather, uncles and neighbors. As a young farmer, labor is his greatest asset.

Benson milked cows for his uncle Ron Sand and grandfather, Richard Sand, while in high school. It was during this time that he purchased his first beef cattle for showing in 4-H and FFA.

After high school, he studied dairy science at Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar before coming back to Minnesota to work for another uncle, Dave Olson of Lewiston. He worked for Olson for four years until a farm accident ended his milking career. He sliced his arm while catching a calf, cutting the tendons for his two outside fingers on his right hand and damaging the tendon of his middle finger.


It was a big bump in the road, but it didn’t deter his desire to farm. But starting to farm on his own hasn’t been without challenges. It’s overwhelming how much money it takes to get started — from input costs to surprise repair bills.

"If you kind of come into this not knowing what you’re going to do, you can find yourself in a hole real fast," Benson said.

At the end of the year, he pays off his crop loan and determines what’s left for him. He tries to keep reinvesting in his operation, installing fences for cattle and redoing waterways in the fields he rents from his parents. His goal is to get to the point where farming is a major part of his income.

His parents, Karen and Mike Benson, purchased a place in the country with 60 acres of land. The farm place has two houses and other outbuildings. Benson rents the land from his parents. He rents additional land from others who support beginning farmers, but said it’s hard to find land he can afford in the tight market.

He wonders if landowners could receive a tax credit for renting out land to younger farmers. He understands that they have costs, too. It’s hard — if not impossible — for beginning farmers to pay $385 per acre rent.

He supports the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act because it’s nice to know something is being done to help young farmers. Young people need additional help in the first few years to get going, Benson said.

Without new farmers, where is the food going to come from?

At the same time, he said it’s extremely important to have experienced farmers to call on for advice. He also works with a farm business management instructor to help manage and improve his farm business.

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