Farm Progress

Looking back over 175 years, change and progress are obvious. But some things never change. Over the next few days, Prairie Farmer will take a closer look at farm families, farmsteads and more. Today, we explore one farm couple's approach to their business and farm operation.

Jill Loehr, Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

November 4, 2016

4 Min Read

As Prairie Farmer looks back on 175 years, it’s clear just how much has changed. Yet, other passions — such as the drive to keep getting better, faster and more efficient — remain the same. Over the next few days, we’ll look at how farm families, farmsteads and Illinois agricultural institutions have changed and yet remained the same over time. Join us as we reflect on the past and present. 

Today’s farm couples, stronger together: Nancy and David Erickson


Farm couples today face a lot of the same challenges as farmers in the 1800s: input costs, Mother Nature, crop prices and more. But there are some big differences, too. Nancy and David Erickson, Altona, say manual labor on the farm may be easier, but the stakes are higher. And change — like market prices and new technology — comes a lot faster. 

“It’s a lot more mental stress,” David explains.

Here’s a look at how the Ericksons make their business and farm operation work.

Divide and conquer

Nancy and David manage Landcorp Inc. and McHatton Farm Management. They are landowners, land operators, absentee landowners and farm managers. They divide and conquer based on their self-identified strengths and weaknesses, something David recommends figuring out early on. “You have to know what you’re good at, and do that,” he says “And you can’t be good at everything.”

“And when you figure out what you’re not good at, find someone who is,” Nancy adds.

With that in mind, David holds majority responsibility for Landcorp, their farm operation. Nancy assists with bookkeeping and payroll.

“On the farm management side, she’s clearly in charge,” David says. “I help with the operational side. I talk to tenants about herbicide, seed, tile and fertilizer, things like that.” Marketing, profit analysis, logistics and working with suppliers falls in Nancy’s court.

There is some crossover between the two businesses, such as fertilizer purchases and soil tests. But Nancy says after 30 years, they know who should handle the task or decision. And there are times when responsibilities shift, even just for few days. David is now vice president of Illinois Farm Bureau, which means more travel for meetings and conferences.

“Being gone means figuring out ways, or another time, to do things,” David says. “I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for Nancy and our employee.”

Nancy agrees, “We complement each other. We have each other’s back.” If a piece of equipment breaks down when David is gone, Nancy will be the first person to tell you she can’t fix it. But she knows exactly who to call to make it happen — fast.

And when David is on the road and Nancy sends a text message to call home, he knows something’s up.

They also agree that time away together is key.

Recharging the batteries and other advice

Nancy and David do some of their best “big picture” thinking and planning at night over dinner. Better yet, they make time to have lunch or dinner in town. Nancy says it helps to get away from the office and farm, away from all the activities and pending workload. She also allows herself time each week for tennis, a sport she thoroughly enjoys. They make a point to plan time away as a family, as well, even if it’s just for a few days of skiing.

Participating in an activity or joining a group is part of becoming a well-rounded individual, something David believes is important for young farmers. “Whether it's volunteer work, finding a mentor or a group, go make yourself a well-rounded person,” he says. Group involvement may lead to new ideas. “Life is all about learning how to learn,” he adds.

And learning may mean asking for advice, which Nancy says isn’t always easy to do. “People see it as a weakness, but don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she says. “Admit you made a bad decision and ask, ‘What do I do now?’”

Getting away for lunch or a trip, joining a group or organization, asking a neighbor for help: It all comes back to balance. And for Nancy and David, part of that balance is mutual respect.

David can list all of Nancy’s strengths, and Nancy can list David’s. To their own admission, they are both strong-willed. But their equal determination works. They find a way to push one another and make each other, and their businesses, even better.

About the Author(s)

Jill Loehr

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer, Loehr

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