On any farm, one essential consideration in building a successful operation is the importance of establishing reliable long-term relationships, whether that be with neighbors, the grain elevator, or seed and ag chem suppliers.
For Bob Holzwarth, 78, and his sons Luke, 55, and Alex, 27, who raise corn, soybeans, and wheat in the rolling hills south of Watertown in northeastern South Dakota, one of their most important long-established relationships is with Hefty Seed Company in Watertown. This partnership stretches back nearly 30 years to when the location opened back in 1996.
“Economics and looking beyond doing things the same old way led me to Ron Hefty,” Bob said. “Ron’s ideas, knowledge and care for the soil was something that I admired.”
In that time since beginning with Hefty Seed, Bob has watched as his farm and the farming industry evolve significantly in practices and yield goals. With a greater focus on improving soils through fertility and better tillage practices such as adoption of strip-till, the farm has achieved building up ground to better retain moisture and release more nutrients from organic matter.
“I refer to myself as a ‘Hefty guy,’” he said. Being a Hefty guy for the past 20-plus years, I’ve seen a steady increase in yield. For example, organic matter has improved from 1% or 2% to 5% and even some over 6%. Now with all the new seed treatments, fungicides, and biologicals, things will only continue to get better.”
Though the operation now farms about 5000 acres, getting to this point has taken the efforts of three generations of Holzwarths. It all began with Bob’s dad, Albert, who started farming by renting a few quarters and building up from there, eventually purchasing the homeplace where Bob grew up and Alex lives today. Though he always knew he wanted to eventually transition into farming, initially Bob went to SDSU and received a degree in Mechanized Agriculture, then spent four years in the U.S. Air Force. After his military tour, Bob sold farm structures for Morton Buildings while picking up a bit of land here and there on the side. When his father, Albert, suddenly had a stroke in 1972, that permanently altered the trajectory of Bob’s life.
“I liked the military, but to tell you the truth, I was called to the farming business,” Bob said. “You can call it supernatural if you want, but that’s how I decided what I was going to do.”
In a way, history repeated itself with Bob’s son, Luke. He grew up on the farm working for his dad and continued to do so through college, where he studied electrical engineering, graduating in 1990.