Next Gen Advice: Be Open to Opportunity

hammDave Hamm’s long-term goal, after farming for 37 years, is to pass the opportunity to a new generation. But at one point in Dave’s life, it looked like his own opportunity to farm had disappeared.

Dave and his wife Brenda took over his father’s farm near Leota, MN, in 1977 and decided in 1981 to concentrate on just one aspect of hog production. They remodeled the barn and settled in to raise a family and raise feeder pigs. Then one horrible night in 1993, an electrical fire destroyed the barn.

That might have ended the Hamm’s swine operation, but Dave was determined not to quit. “I love farming,” he said. “I want to make this place work.”

The couple considered building another gestation/farrowing unit. But after assessing the state of the industry, they decided to go into finishing. “We have to focus on one aspect nowadays,” Dave reasoned. “Being the best at one thing is better than shuffling along so-so at many things.” They built a 600-head nursery and a 1200-head finisher barn.

Since then, Dave and Brenda have prospered. They put up an additional 600 wean-to-finish barn and rented older barns from a couple of their neighbors. The Hamm’s feed manufacturer introduced him to the Pipestone System, and they now own shares in Great Plains Family Farms (White Tail Run farm), south of Leota.

“We’re guaranteed a good supply of quality pigs with the best genetics available,” says Dave, “and we get marketing opportunities thorough the system.” The Hamms currently sell about 30% of their finished pigs through Big Stone Marketing and the rest on contact to Hormel.

After 37 years of successful farming, Dave has some advice for the generation that will come after him. “Be open to opportunities and new technologies,” he urges, “and stay connected to the Pipestone System because they run constant trials and do a lot more testing of these technologies than the individual producer could do.”

Life has been good for the Hamms, who recently celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary. Like the fire that threatened to end their opportunity to farm, there have been bumps in the road. Last fall, Brenda needed a liver transplant at Mayo Clinic. But with help from friends and neighbors, the Leota couple continues to do what they love to do.

“I’m so grateful for my feed supplier, Mouw’s Feed and Grain, for keeping watch over our operations, and for Rick Danneman, who helped me out when I was gone to Rochester for two months,” says Dave. Speaking tenderly of Brenda, who is back to work at her job with Vander Stoep Furniture in Edgerton, he remarks, “She’s feeling fine now, still has some health difficulties that come up, but overall, is doing well.”

Editor’s Note: Dave and Brenda Hamm have three sons, and currently works at HSI; Derek, who lives with his family in Luverne and has three sons; Dustin, who is also married and lives in Sioux Center, Iowa, but is moving to Orange City soon to work for Northwestern College; and Dallas, also from Luverne, who works as a Rock County deputy sheriff and plans to marry in August.