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Minnesota woman finds first harvest as a full-time farmer rewarding

As Lily Bergman reflected on her first full-time farming season, she was, overall, pleased.

A woman wearing a red and blue flannel shirt and blue overalls drives a sugarbeet truck alongside a tractor and lifter.
Lily Bergman drove the 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift during the 2022 sugarbeet harvest at her farm near Oslo, Minnesota. Photo taken Oct. 11, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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Editor's note: Ann Bailey has been checking up with Lily Bergman throughout the growing season as part of our Follow a Farmer series.

OSLO, Minn. — In the middle of October, Lily Bergman was finishing her first harvest season as a full-time farmer.

Bergman, a 23-year-old spring graduate of North Dakota State University in Fargo with a degree in agricultural engineering, began farming full time this spring after years of farming with her father, James, part time while in high school and college.

The daughter and father have separate farming operations but work together to raise and harvest their wheat, pinto beans, soybeans and sugarbeet crops.

Unlike during her college years when Bergman was in Fargo going to classes and studying during the week and commuting to her home near Oslo on weekends, in 2022 she was able to concentrate solely on farming.

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A woman wearing a red and blue flannel shirt and overalls stands in front of a white sugarbeet truck.
Lily Bergman and her father, James Bergman, grow 840 acres of sugarbeets on the Bergman farm near Oslo, Minnesota. Photo taken Oct. 11, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

“I’m enjoying being here for everything and being focused on it,” Bergman said, on Oct. 11, 2022. “I won’t say it’s easier, but it’s better.”

In mid-October, the Bergmans were on the downside of their sugarbeet harvest. Together, they raise 840 acres of sugarbeets for American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minnesota.

The crop, despite being planted late, appeared to be yielding well, Bergman said.

Her sugarbeet harvest, which began with the pre-pile in late August, moved forward with few hiccups except for a mechanical breakdown on Oct. 10.

Read more about Lily Bergman:
Ann Bailey has followed Lily Bergman's first full-time growing season. Read more of her journey here:
  1. Fresh out of college, Minnesota farmer Lily Bergman is ready to hit the fields
  2. In July, most of Lily Bergman's crops were playing catch-up, but at least they all got in the ground

Bergman drives sugarbeet truck from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. — she and her father harvest sugarbeets 24/7 during the campaign. She helped install a new bearing, a five-hour project, so her shift ran about an extra hour that day.

She was up again by 9 a.m. the next day, doing routine service on the tractor she uses to pull the pinto bean combine. After Bergman finished that at 11 a.m., she went out to the field where her dad was lifting sugarbeets when she got word that the harvest would be halted for several hours.

American Crystal Sugar shut down harvest when sugarbeet root temperatures become too warm to safely store the crop. Bergman planned to start driving a sugarbeet truck at 9 p.m. on Oct. 11 and continue until 2 a.m. Oct. 12.

Sleep can be elusive during the sugarbeet campaign, but Bergman took that in stride.

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A red sugarbeet lifter moves down a field.
James Bergman, Lily Bergman's father, lifts sugarbeets in a field near Oslo, Minnesota. Photo taken Oct. 11, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

“We’ll sleep after the beets are harvested,” she said.

Between noon and 9 p.m, when she got back behind the wheel of the sugarbeet truck, Bergman planned to harvest the last of her pinto bean crop.

Bergman, similar to other farmers in northwest Minnesota and across North Dakota, had to delay spring planting because of excessively wet, cold conditions.

Like the sugarbeets, wheat and soybeans, the 2022 pinto beans crop was better than she expected.

“All of the crops, we were pleasantly surprised,” Bergman said. “I was nervous when we were planting, especially the beets.”

The pinto beans yields, on average, will be near record, she said. Part of the reason for that is there were no drowned-out acres this year.

“It was all beans, end to end, “ Bergman said.

As she reflected on her first full-time farming season, she was, overall, pleased.

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“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been good. I’m glad this is where I’m at. I’m already excited about next year,” she said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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