Alex Yaggie, 29
4th Generation Farmer

Farm: 24,000 acres with Grandpa Don (83); his father, Kevin; his uncles Jeff and Mike; his brother, Aaron (25); and Cousin Jordan (31)
Crops: Malt Barley, Wheat, Soybeans, Corn, Sugar Beets, and Edible Beans
Hometown: Thief River Falls, MN
Family: Wife, Hannah; son, Leo, 18 months

Alex Yaggie (at right) with his wife, Hannah, and 18-month-old son, Leo.

Family farms make up 98% of all American farms, and farmers comprise less than 2% of the overall American workforce.  Alex Yaggie is well aware of these numbers, and it causes him concern for the future of the true family farm, especially considering that less than 6% of farmers are in their twenties.

“The numbers are getting smaller; there are fewer and fewer younger farmers every year,” Yaggie said.  “The average age right now is 58-60.  My generation doesn’t know the difference between a combine and a tractor or a soybean and an edible bean plant.”

For Yaggie, the love for farming started young, so young that his only role was looking out the window and seeing the equipment outside. As he got older he was eventually allowed to drive trucks and tractors, and now at 29 he is a partner in “Don Yaggie and Sons Farms”, an operation that spans three counties in northwestern Minnesota.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to come home to farm right away,” Yaggie said.  “I didn’t necessarily go for agronomy but I did have an ag business background. That first year when I did make the decision to come home and give it a try, it was just learning why we do things, observing and then asking a lot of questions.”

Yaggie was lucky to have two generations above him to draw on for expertise and credits his grandpa, dad and uncles with handing down priceless knowledge.  Just in the past year he, his younger brother, and cousin decided the way they used to plant wasn’t necessarily maximizing resources and started pushing for more precision ag practices vs. standard planting. He and the “younger generation” brought it up with the more seasoned generation and were told “it wouldn’t work well.”

But Yaggie is not one to be deterred.

“We found as much data as we could on the different ways to plant,” he said.  “We presented a bunch of different ideas to them about variable rate seeding and variable rate fertilizing. We started on a small scale this year, and I think they’ve bought into it. It’s one of those things where with us being the younger guys and having less experience – when our parents and grandparents saw that it worked, it felt like a win.”

Yaggie would love for the general public to see what he sees in farming and hopes the publicity of the Rose Parade will help with that.

“Being able to have others see what we do and how we do it is huge,” Yaggie said.  “Farmers are always trying to improve.  We are trying to improve on our technology, trying to use less fuel, fewer chemicals; we are trying to be more sustainable.  We are not doing things to negatively affect the land or our food supply. We are truly doing things the best way we can and using the least amount of product we can; I think if consumers knew this it would quell a lot of their fears.”

In the meantime, Yaggie and his family will keep working on their land and bringing in this year’s bounty.

“The really cool thing is being able to work together and at the end of the year have a successful season; hands down it is the best part about farming,” he said.  “There is a lot of time invested and not every day goes perfect, but in the end everything gets done and it always works out.”