By Ann Trimble-Ray, Heartland Marketing Group
Chase Pladsen is not quite 20-years-old, and for half of his life, he has been interested in being a farmer and began pursuing his dream with the purchase of two commercial cows at age 10. He soon replaced them with registered Red Angus stock and has been in this business since 2010. All the while, his plan to be a farmer was solidifying in an unconventional manner.
Pladsen grew up in rural Harpers Ferry, Iowa. His dad, Stephen, owns a car dealership in nearby Waukon and his mom, Michele, is a school teacher. Each has been instrumental in nurturing Chase’s dream. Both sets of his grandparents have been involved in farming for a long time and he grew up around his dad and Grandpa Pladsens’ commercial beef cows. His other grandpa has milked cows for many years.
“We always had beef cattle,” Pladsen remembers. “I decided to get a couple of my own and that sparked my interest at a young age.” His path to being a cattleman was far from traditional but he sees the advantages. The average age of a farmer in Allamakee County is 56, per the 2012 Ag Census; Pladsen is bucking trends and establishing himself with confidence.
“I took a good route and was able to look at it from a more modern perspective. There wasn’t an old way I had to do it,” he remarks. “Instead, I asked, what is the most efficient way to do it now?” He implemented artificial insemination and focused on advancing genetic progress with his herd, enabling him to begin selling seed stock.
He is no stranger to success in the Red Angus business. In 2013, he showed the grand champion Red Angus junior bull at the Iowa State Fair. In 2015, he brought home honors for the grand champion spring bull. Then in 2016, Pladsen garnered both the grand champion fall bull and reserve champion junior bull.
While the Red Angus herd launched his interest in farming and livestock production, he diversified by building two gilt development units for Reicks View Farms of Lawler, Iowa, in 2017. He was introduced to pork production by working for neighbors, the Weymillers, who also raise gilts for Reicks View Farms. “I love it,” he says. “Two barns keep me busy.”
When construction was complete on the barns this past summer, Pladsen hosted an open house for neighbors to see the facilities and understand all the technology incorporated for worker, neighbor and animal health. “More than 200 people showed up,” he explains. “We served a meal and guests walked through the barn before pigs were delivered. A lot of people who are not in agriculture came and were amazed at how the barns are set up and how comfortable they are. They are big structures, all high tech. We order feed through the computer, temperature controls are all computerized, curtains move up or down, fans go on or off, vents in the ceiling are open or closed automatically. It’s right around 70 degrees year around in the barns. Healthier, happier animals do better.”
Busy is an understatement for this young, enterprising entrepreneur who is a full-time student at Iowa State University with an Agricultural Studies major. “I’m down here to learn, to find out the best, most-efficient way to farm,” he observes. “I took Econ 235 last semester; it’s about agricultural markets. We learned how to hedge grain, how markets react to one another, and did a futures trading project. It helped me a lot to understand how markets work.”
In addition to classwork, Pladsen has found a network of like-minded young adults who share his passion for farming and growing their skills. Their conversations about production, management and the shared calling to the farming lifestyle are fueling his desire even further.
To manage his growing farm enterprise, he employs a full-time hired hand, Jess, and has the help of his 16-year-old brother Luke as well. “I spend a lot of time on the phone,” he explains. “I go back on the weekends to work — I’m there Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday. I can make key decisions on the weekend and plan for the week ahead, identifying what needs to happen.”
He will be planting his first crop in 2018 on a little more than 100 acres adjacent to one of his gilt development barns. Manure from the barns will be used as fertilizer for the corn crop. “Manure is a byproduct of livestock production,” he states. “I have a manure management plan. It will be applied where corn is grown. I don’t have to buy commercial fertilizer and instead can put natural fertilizer on. Corn feeds pigs and it’s a nice, big cycle.” Pladsen has plans to expand his crop production business in the future.
“I really like producing safe, quality food products whether its beef or pork or corn fed to livestock,” he says. “People need to eat and they’re depending on me to feed them. I think that’s neat.” This mission and the satisfaction from being successful drive his desire to grow his business. And should his brother decide to come back to the farm, Pladsen welcomes his involvement.
He anticipates an early graduation from ISU in 2019. Then he will return to his well-established farm and continue to grow personally, professionally and with pride for what he produces to feed the world.