Agriculture is more than just a job for the farmers Bremer serves across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. They’ve dedicated their lives to the land and the community that surrounds it. Jason Schatzke is a perfect example.
Since 1998, Schatzke and his wife Tanya have owned and operated Schatzke Farms on the western edge of the Red River Valley of North Dakota. The farm was founded in 1881 by Jason’s great-great grandfather Johan Schatzke and has been family-owned ever since. To sustain and grow a family business for 140 years is no small feat. And Jason is quick to share his success.
“We have quite a few neighbors who have been here close to 100 years also,” he said. “It’s a rich, fruitful area that has produced good crops over the years. Our heritage is solid. We are rooted to this farm. And relationships, such as ours with Bremer, have helped to keep us here.”
He also credits his ancestors. In addition to strong partnerships, Schatzke believes farming takes a lot of determination. And while farming today brings its own level of stress, it was especially difficult in the early days. “The work was incredibly strenuous, and they showed a tremendous amount of determination. Today we have the benefits of automation and a skilled team,” Schatzke said.
The husband/wife team at Schatzke Farms has a good system that keeps the farm operating at full speed. “Tanya and my daughter Leah keep the office running, and my boys, Grant and Jace, are a huge part of doing whatever is asked with a smile on their face. As far as my role, I’m the juggler who keeps all the balls in the air,” Schatzke said.
He makes it sound easier than it is. Especially considering he is an executive board member of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, a member of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, and president of the Moorhead Factory District Board of the Growers Association. Schatzke engages actively because he believes in the industry. A large investment goes into raising sugar beets. In fact, sugar beets are the backbone of Schatzke Farms, allowing them to reinvest and grow the operation. “I believe that when you’re passionate about what you do, it’s important for your voice to be heard,” Schatzke said. And he credits his ability to be an active industry participant to the good people on Team Schatzke who keep the farm running smoothly when he’s away at meetings.
With as many as 40 workers during peak harvest season, the Schatzke Farms team is clearly a point of pride for Jason. “One of the keys to making this farm work is our employees. I have one of the best teams out there, including one team member, Ryan Puhr, who has been with me for just short of 20 years. When I am not around, he’s my number one guy and does a tremendous job at keeping the process moving. As far as the rest of my team, I have been extremely fortunate both past and present to have a team who treat our farm as their own. Some have even broken off on their own to farm,” he said. “In production agriculture, you can’t make many mistakes. The work demands precision and commitment.”
Like many family farmers, Schatzke’s goal is to provide an opportunity for all three of his children to share a stake in the farm. Like his father before him, Jason is partnering with Bremer and others to prepare for the eventual transfer of ownership to the next generation. Jason and Tanya currently rent just shy of 10,000 acres and own roughly 2,000. They hope their children will have the opportunity to buy more of their own land when it’s their turn. “I want my kids to be able to be sugar beet farmers. Paving the way for them to have a greater ownership stake in the acreage is a goal my wife and I share,” Schatzke said.
At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships for Jason Schatzke. Family relationships, team relationships, industry relationships and banking relationships. “If I were giving advice to a family business owner about selecting a banking partner, I would tell them not to just go for the cheapest money – that may cost you more than you’ll ever realize,” he shares. Instead, he says, look for a banker who understands what you’re doing and what your goals are – and takes an interest in your future. “The bankers at Bremer understand farming, they get us the best interest rates on borrowed capital, and they counsel me when I need a reminder to be a bit more conservative. They give a darn about Schatzke Farms, and it shows. Bremer is a people-minded bank.”
Agriculture banker Jared Nelson is equally proud to work with Schatzke Farms. “We deal with some very good farmers here in the Valley. Cream of the crop, like Jason. He has expertise in management and marketing and has done a tremendous job growing Schatzke Farms,” he said.
For both Schatzke Farms and Bremer Bank, strong relationships are at the heart of enduring business growth and lasting success.