July 26, 2021 at 5:44 p.m.
BROWERVILLE, Minn. – After spending his entire dairy career renting facilities, an opportunity to purchase a farm site affirmed Trevor Lisson’s calling to milk cows.
“We looked at a lot of farms to purchase and even considered building, but none of those worked out,” Lisson said. “This, here, was meant to be.”
Lisson and his family – wife Alexandria and sons Thomas, 2, and Kolbe, 1 – milk 52 cows on a 150-acre farm site in Todd County near Browerville that Lisson purchased from Todd and Jean Pollema June 14, 2019.
The property includes a tiestall barn and multiple facilities to accommodate youngstock, springing heifers and dry cows; calves are housed in hutches on the south side of the property.
Lisson connected with the Pollemas nearly by happenstance. He was working with his farm business management instructor and financial lender to develop a plan for building a new farm site when word of the Pollemas’ property became known.
“Todd told me to swing in and look at the place,” Lisson. “We knew it was a perfect fit for what we wanted. They came up with a price and it was something we were comfortable with.”
With an updated facility and new house built on the property in 2005 and 2007, respectively, coupled with land and an opportunity to grow that land base in the future, Lisson had discovered a farm site he could not look away from.
Within three months, the transaction was complete.
“This had everything we were looking for. The barn was built for a high-producing herd, and it aligns with my style of dairy farming,” Lisson said. “It was the perfect situation.”
In total, Lisson farms 210 acres near Browerville and Staples. This past spring, he entered a contract for deed agreement to purchase an additional 70 acres of land that is south of the original 80-acre farm site, bringing the total acres at the Browerville location to 150.
“My farm is far away from the other land I run, but with family in Staples it is a lot more manageable to keep up,” Lisson said. “With my younger brother coming back to help my dad milk his cows, it’s been easier for everyone.”
The young farmer began milking cows in 2012. At the time, he rented facilities from his uncle near Staples. After about four years, Lisson relocated to another rented farm site and invested in an irrigation system and made improvements on soil health. He also continually grew his herd to maximize profits from production.
However, because of issues on the property outside of Lisson’s control, he was stuck at a crossroads in his dairying career.
“I got to the point that I was mentally tired of farming, but if I did build, I knew I’d be taking on a lot of debt,” he said. “That was really waning on me and the commitment it would be. At the same time, we had our first son on the way and I was thinking differently about what I wanted for my family and our future.”
Lisson was able to purchase his new farm site with financial assistance from his local bank and a small loan from the United States Department of Agriculture as a young farmer.
“I didn’t have a lot of debt going into this purchase, and I think that’s why the purchase went through so quickly,” Lisson said. “My grandparents and parents taught me how to manage money. If you spend a dollar, you better make it back and don’t be wasteful.”
The farmer also noted how well he and the sellers worked together.
“Todd and Jean went above and beyond to make sure the place was ready for us to move in,” he said. “They made sure things were running well and we’d be off to a good start. They are amazing people.”
Prior to moving to the property, Lisson downsized his herd. He spent the previous years building his herd and production as he tried to offset the consequences of stray voltage.
The new-to-him barn has facilitated a healthier, more productive herd.
“This barn was made for the type of cows I have,” Lisson said. “My workload is less, and the cows are happier and healthier. Everything is better. It’s been awesome, knock on wood.”
While the setup has aided in an overall better milking herd, not much of Lisson’s management has changed. He continues to house and care for his youngstock and dry cows as he did at the rented farm sites, and works closely with his nutritionist and agronomist to grow feed for the animals.
Most of Lisson’s land is irrigated.
“When we made this purchase, irrigation was already here and that was a big selling point for us,” Lisson said. “Having access to water changes everything, especially in a year like this.”
With a farm to call his own, a herd proving their worth and land for continued opportunity, Lisson is at peace with where his dairying career has taken him.
“I’ve always wanted something of my own,” Lisson said. “This farm was ready, so now I’ll continue to focus on production and hopefully grow the farm. I have to see how the industry shapes out and how I’ll fit in to that.”
Lisson is also eager to take this opportunity to raise his family as caretakers of the land and animals.
“There are miracles in my life … after intense prayers, I know with certainty that I’m living out my vocation,” Lisson said. “My family is here on this farm to raise strong, Christian men and women.”