Prospering from challenges

Plante builds farm, never deters from a problem

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LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — If there is one thing that never scared Patrick Plante, it was a challenge. Buying a farm site in 1989, prior to seeing it, Plante had his work cut out for him. 

A herd of 50 milking cows, which are mainly Holstein with a few Holstein-Angus crossbreds, can now be found in the tiestall barn on Plante’s farm near Little Falls. Plante’s fiancée, Cathy, works off the farm, but Plante’s full-time employee tends to cow care and milking while Plante does all the fieldwork. 

Plante did not always plan on buying a farm, and it was not until he needed a way to pay the bills that he considered starting his own dairy operation on a farm site that had been foreclosed and was up for auction. Plante was told the farm was in rough shape, which is probably why he won with a low bid. 

“Anything that would have discouraged me at the time would have made me try to strive higher (because) I don’t turn away from a challenge,” Plante said. “When I first came (to the farm site), I couldn’t turn around in the yard with a vehicle; it was that full of junk.” 

Getting the yard and driveway drivable was the first challenge Plante faced. After clearing the yard and hauling in 2,000-3,000 yards of crushed tar, the path was finally a road. However, this was not the only place Plante needed to haul in fill. Before he could build a machine shed, 25,000 yards of fill was needed.

“There is 4-6 feet of fill on everything on one side of the driveway,” Plante said.

After growing up on a dairy farm close to his current farm, Plante worked other jobs for about five years and then bought a farm with his brother. Soon after, Plante decided to sell his share to his brother and buy a farm of his own. 

Since the foreclosed property was near his parents’ farm, he was able to use their equipment to get started. While Plante was busy making his farm look like a farm, he also helped with fieldwork at his parents’ farm, which was how he paid them for the use of their machinery.

By 1993, Plante was running the farm on his own without the use of his parents’ equipment. Plante also worked to improve his cropland.

“At first, I averaged 60-bushel corn, and now I average around 200 bushels,” Plante said.

While getting his fields up and running, Plante also tackled another challenge: the farm’s unusable milking barn.

“The manure and other refuse was over the top of the tie stalls throughout the barn, from wall to wall, ” Plante said. “I was worried to put cattle in right away because of the risk to their health.”

Getting to work to clean the barn and make it livable, Plante put off rebuilding the house. He said the barn being an early priority is the reason the original house is still standing. It was later remodeled, twice, and he still lives in it today. When he first moved to the farm, the upstairs had almost no roof. However, the farm had bigger priorities.

“The house didn’t make me money to pay bills,” Plante said.

Once the barn was clean and safe for cattle, Plante moved his first herd of 20 into the barn in 1991. Slowing growing the herd, Plante milked with buckets to keep costs down until he was able to buy and install a pipeline in 1999. 

“I was taught to pay for things as I go, so I was never in debt,” Plante said. “I did more manual labor with wheelbarrows and pitchforks. I never thought about who could do this for me.”

Plante said that his dad understood how challenges inspired his son and would say things to motivate Plante forward.

“My dad knew me better than I did because he always told me, ‘You will never grow anything other than weeds (on your farm),’ which only pushed me harder,” Plante said. “He would never put me down though.”

After creating the farm he has today from nothing, Plante said he now enjoys his life and never has a day he wakes up complaining about his job. He also said he likes to have bad days at times because it makes him appreciate when good days comes along. 

Plante now has a fully functional farm. Having to build everything besides the barn and house, and putting a lot of work into both of them as well, Plante built himself not only a home but a way of life.

“This isn’t a trial run; your life is a one-time deal,” Plante said. “If you spend every day working a job you hate, what do you have to look forward to? Life itself isn’t easy; life is a mindset, and it’s what you make of it.”

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