Editor’s note: Ann Bailey spoke with Lily Bergman throughout the growing season as part of our Follow a Farmer series.
OSLO, Minnesota — In mid-October, Lily Bergman was finishing her first harvest season as a full-time farmer.
Bergman, a 23-year-old graduate of North Dakota State University in Fargo with a degree in agricultural engineering, started farming full-time this spring after years of farming with her father, James, in part-time in high school and college.
Daughter and father have separate farms, but work together to grow and harvest their wheat, pinto beans, soybeans and sugar beets.
Unlike her college years when Bergman was in Fargo taking classes and studying during the week and commuting to her home near Oslo on the weekends, in 2022 she was able to focus solely on farming.
“I like being here for everything and focusing on it,” Bergman said on Oct. 11, 2022. “I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but it’s better.”
By mid-October, the Bergmans were down on their sugar beet harvest. Together they grow 840 acres of sugar beets for American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minnesota.
The crop, although late seeded, appears to be yielding well, Bergman said.
His sugar beet harvest, which started with the pre-pile in late August, progressed with a few hiccups except for a mechanical breakdown on October 10.
Bergman drives a sugar beet truck from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. — she and her father harvest sugar beets 24/7 during the campaign. She helped install a new bearing, a five-hour project, so her shift was about an extra hour that day.
She was up again at 9 a.m. the next day, performing routine maintenance on the tractor she uses to pull the pinto bean combine. After Bergman finished this at 11 a.m., she went to the field where her father was raising sugar beets when she learned that the harvest would be interrupted for several hours.
American Crystal Sugar stops harvesting when sugar beet root temperatures get too hot to store the crop safely. Bergman planned to start driving a sugar beet truck at 9 p.m. on October 11 and continue until 2 a.m. on October 12.
Sleep can be elusive during the sugar beet campaign, but Bergman took it head on.
“We will sleep after the beet harvest,” she says.
Between noon and 9 p.m., when she got back behind the wheel of the sugar beet truck, Bergman planned to harvest the last of her crop of pinto beans.
Bergman, like other farmers in northwest Minnesota and North Dakota, had to delay spring planting due to excessively wet and cold conditions.
Like sugar beets, wheat and soybeans, the 2022 pinto bean crop has been better than expected.
“All harvests, we were pleasantly surprised,” Bergman said. “I was nervous when we were planting, especially the beets.”
Pinto bean yields, on average, will be near record high, she said. Part of the reason is that there were no flooded acres this year.
“It was all beans, butt,” Bergman said.
As she reflected on her first full-time farming season, she was, overall, satisfied.
” I appreciated. Its been good. I’m glad I’m here. I’m already excited for next year,” she said.