Farming in Minnesota lake country off to a good start in 2023

Adam Johnson farms near Garfield in Minnesota's Douglas County.

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Adam Johnson, left, farms with his dad, Dave, near Garfield, Minnesota. They were nearing the end of spring planting on May 23, 2023.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

GARFIELD, Minn. — Adam Johnson farms in the rolling hills of west-central Minnesota lake country, not far from Alexandria and its popular chain of lakes.

When asked how farming in lake country might be different, the first thing that came to mind was tourists.

“Mainly it affects how we farm, is we try not to be doing anything we gotta move a lot of equipment during holiday weekends,” Johnson said during the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend. “You don’t want to be out on the road with something wide.”

Join us as Agweek reporters explore the life of farmers in the region through our “Follow a Farmer” series. This year we follow fifth-generation farmer Sam Landman on his family’s farm near Larimore, North Dakota; Christy Heckathorn through her season of flowers at Fleurish Farms in Elk Point, South Dakota.; and more to come. We'll be updating readers monthly on how work is progressing at each of the farms throughout the 2023 season.

Adam Johnson farms near Garfield, Minnesota. He was out picking rocks with an ATV on May 23, 2023. He was hoping to finish planting soybeans the next day.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

With the unofficial start of summer, the rural roads of Douglas County will be clogged by lake-goers pulling boats and campers.


Luckily, Johnson was going to be done planting before the holiday weekend. He finished planting corn on May 17 and planned to be done with soybeans on May 24.

That’s a big change from the cool, wet spring of 2022, when most of the planting was done in the last half of May and some acres had to be replanted in June.

Adam Johnson farms at Garfield, Minnesota, west of Alexandria, in an area with many popular lakes.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Johnson said he managed an average crop, better than he expected given the planting conditions. “I expected worse out of it,” he said.

In 2023, Johnson said Douglas County was “blessed with a bunch of snow” to help rejuvenate soils after a dry fall.

But it was a late spring with a lot of the snow melting all at once, which he said led to ponding on the fields. But when he was able to get into those fields, spring warmed up quickly. He said farming in hilly country, south-facing slopes will usually emerge faster, but not this year.

“Temperatures warmed up so fast, I think this year is the fastest we've ever had corn come out of the ground and probably the most even emergence, all those bottoms and hilltops all came at the same time,” Johnson said. “It looks really good.”

A shot of rain after soybeans get planted would be welcome but with good subsoil moisture, he was hoping for consistent heat and the weather forecast was cooperating.

The other side of that coin would be falling in a dry weather pattern like the fall of 2022 and most of 2021.


“Last couple of years have been fairly dry here — last year wasn't as bad as the year before,” Johnson said. “I guess I'm kind of hoping that it doesn't start into a pattern like that or we're short for rain. So far, the soil moisture we have this year, it looks like it's going to take us a lot further than the last couple years.”

Dave Johnson refills a fertilizer tank in a field south of Garfield, Minnesota, on May 23, 2023.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Johnson is a fifth-generation farmer who farms with his dad, Dave Johnson. He and his wife, Jill, are raising three children.

Adam Johnson also is president of the Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers Association. The group supports various causes in the county and organizes events like promoting E-85, on May 29, Memorial Day, in Alexandria, and another on July 5 in Evansville, tied to that town’s summer celebration.

Those town celebrations will also bring the Corn and Soybean Growers out for the parade and the tourists.

“We do our best to promote agriculture,” Johnson said. “We’re in every small town parade around. We pull a trailer with our name on it and make the kid's happy with candy.”

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