I grew up in east central Minnesota in the small town of Almelund. My dad worked as a breeder for American Breeders Service. He always had dairy farming “in his blood” and liked dealing in the cattle business. Though he never owned his own dairy farm, he felt working on farms would instill good work ethic into all four of his sons.
When we were younger, we learned how to milk, care for cattle, and help with field work on local farms. I also had the opportunity to ride with him as he went on his breeding calls. Though my three other brothers continued to do farm work as teenagers, they followed other career paths, but farming was instilled “in my blood” just as it was with my dad.
When I turned 15, my dad found an empty barn close to our home and thought it was time for me to have my own herd of cows. The plan would be to keep and milk them over the summer and sell them in the fall when it was time to go back to school.
He was able to find a herd of 25 Guernsey cows thinking this would be easier for me to handle than Holsteins. I found that I enjoyed doing this work and being my own boss. When September came, we sold the cattle as planned, but I knew that this was something that I would want to do again the next summer.
The following year when I was 16, my dad was traveling in northern Minnesota as a district sales manager for ABS. There he found a herd of 30 Holsteins at a good price to buy in Grand Rapids. Being from a small town, the local cattle hauler happened to be our neighbor. It was only a few days later that this trucker and I (a 16-year-old new driver) each took off in a truck to drive the 150 miles and retrieve my new herd of animals. We loaded the animals, I proceeded to write out a check for $12,000.00 and off we went to my rented barn.
Now, the farmer who sold us the animals felt the need to follow us to our destination and take the check I had just given him to the local bank where I had the account. He walked inside, presented the check to the teller, and told her that he needed cash. The cash was given without question even though I did not have a balance anywhere near that amount in my account and wasn’t even old enough to obtain a loan on my own.
They could only assume that the Petersons had been out buying cattle again! It was not until the next day that the bank owner/president, who also happened to be a neighbor and fellow church member, called our house and told my mom that “Steve and Carleton should stop in sometime to sign a loan.”
I continued to dairy farm near Almelund for the next 34 years and during that time I longed for those simpler days of deals made by your word, a handshake, and the trust of your small local bank.