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Producing Excellence

The Bartak Family

Anselmo, NE

Bartak Brothers, Inc.

Products: Cattle, feed crops and pasture

Size of Operation: 1,300 cow/calf pairs, 6,000 crop acres, 15,000 grazing acres

In Business Since: before 1983

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit Services of America

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1998

It’s no secret that farming and ranching are hard work, with long hours of physical labor and tasks that need to be done every day of the year. What helps make it worthwhile for one Nebraska farmer, whose family traces its farming roots back to the 1700s, is being able to work with his family every day.

“As they grew up, every member of the family has been involved in one way or another,” says Joel Bartak, who now works closely with his twin brother, Bruce, and five of their six sons, with another son still in college. This next generation is a big focus for the operation, which has expanded its herd and acreage to provide sufficient income to support the additional family members. In fact, Joel says, “We’re just getting them going. When we see where they’re at in 15 years, we’ll know how successful we are.”

The Bartaks run a cow/calf operation which this year includes 1,300 cows to be calved – most of these are the Bartaks’, including some owned by each of the five sons, and some are owned by their hired hands. “It gives them an extra bonus and keeps them interested,” says Joel. “Our men are here fairly long term, and we think this might be part of why.” The Bartaks either raise the calves themselves or sell them, with the decision based on where they’ll get the best margin.

To feed their herd, they raise 6,000 acres of feed crops, 85% of which is irrigated and that also provides winter grazing, and manage another 15,000 acres of summer grazing land with 300 acres irrigated. This irrigation has become even more critical with the recent drought, which has had a dramatic impact on the Bartaks operation. “We’re walking into the toughest situation in the 30-plus years we’ve been farming,” says Joel. “But that’s what we do – we manage through this stuff, and we will again.” Helping them along the way is Farm Credit Services of America, which provides long- and short-term loans to the Bartaks. “Farm Credit is a really good partner in our operation,” says Joel. “We could not do what we do without them.”

How the Bartaks manage their complex operation through all the challenges they face is the topic of a new web-based mini-series, Growing Season. This documentary program is being produced by CPI, their local agronomy and grain cooperative, and will follow the Bartaks through an entire year, showing everything from cows calving and the daily care of the herd to planting and harvesting. Joel hopes that the program will tell the story of what it takes to manage a cattle and crop operation. His son, Evan, agrees. “We’re hoping to help people see the whole picture, that farmers as a whole are good stewards of the land and the animals, that we’re trying to cut down on pollution, to be more efficient,” he says. Growing Season will be producing one episode each month beginning in April, 2013 – watch them here.

Download a PDF version of this story here.