Brown’s Home Farm Remains Center of Operations
Thousands of students across America have graduated from high school and college during the past two weeks. It’s exciting to think many of them will follow career paths that don’t even exist today because technology continues to evolve. Others will leave home, stretch their wings and then realize they desire to raise their families on the farm that’s been in their families for generations.
Take, for example, brothers Ross and Levi Brown of Dell Rapids, South Dakota. Neither of them planned to farm. Their parents, Kevin and Renee, insisted that their sons earn a four-year degree. They both attended college 45 minutes from the home farm, which made it possible for them to come on weekends to help with crops or cattle.
Ross graduated from Dell Rapids High School in 2005 and then went to basic training and Air Force technical training. In 2006, he started taking classes at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings where he majored in Aviation Management. He was deployed three times, ranging from two to four months each time.
“Resuming studies after deployment wasn’t hard for me,” says Ross. “It might have even been beneficial. Being a little older helped me focus more on my studies.”
Due to his deployments, Ross and Levi graduated from SDSU on the same day. After graduating from high school in 2009, Levi had intended to become an engineer. He enrolled in the School of Mines, but it only took him one semester to realize that school wasn’t the best fit for him. The following semester he transferred to SDSU where he earned a bachelor’s degree by double-majoring in Agricultural Business and Finance with a minor in Economics,
The same day Levi moved into his Brookings apartment, he introduced himself to the beautiful coed who lived on the floor below. Her name was Olivia, and shortly thereafter, they began dating. Levi and Olivia dated from the time she was a freshman through her senior year. Meanwhile, Levi worked two years for a farmer in Mitchell while Olivia continued her studies. She is a registered nurse and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from SDSU. They were married in 2014 and moved to Dell Rapids. Levi began farming, and Olivia continued to pursue her studies. She will graduate in August 2019 with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from SDSU.
Levi and Olivia are the proud parents of a two-year-old daughter, Cora. Their farm is 3 miles northwest of the home place, where Kevin and Renee have lived since 1985 and where Renee was raised. Although they converted the farm from a dairy to a beef operation, Renee remains tied to the dairy industry. She has sold dairy ingredients to cheese and ice cream manufacturers across the Upper Midwest for the past 30 years. The Brown’s home place remains the center of operations as Ross and his family live across the section to the north.
Ross returned to the family farm in 2012 after working a couple of years at Raven Industries. He spent a great deal of time traveling for his job and realized how much time he would be sacrificing away from family if he continued in aviation. Ross and his wife, Jen, are the proud parents of six-year old Elsa, four-year-old Joe, and three-year-old Arlo. Jen teaches first grade in Sioux Falls. Ross continues to serve in the Air National Guard, and his 20th year of service will be 2025.
Ross and Levi have put their interests and expertise to work on the family farm. They built their own strip tiller and bean planter. Levi said he’s read more articles since he’s graduated than he did as a student because it’s more meaningful now that he can apply what he learns. Kevin says his sons are always on the Internet, looking for new ideas. In fact, that’s how they learned about Latham Hi-Tech Seeds performance in the F.I.R.S.T. Trials and about Latham’s hybrids that are the Boss on Goss.
“Ross and Levi have really embraced technology, and that’s helped the bottom line of the farm,” says Kevin. “Technology adds another level of management, so I’m turning the reigns over to them. They order our seed, chemicals and fertilizer because they know the prescriptions for each farm.”
Ross was quick to add, “We all bring something to the table. Everyone has ideas to share. Oftentimes, Levi and I will be working on equipment. Dad walks in and says, ‘Try this,’ and then it works.”
The Browns farm separately, yet together. In addition to raising crops, Kevin finishes feeder cattle. Because there wasn’t an opportunity to buy more land, Ross also finishes feeder cattle and calves about 100 cows each spring. Levi will build cattle yards this summer and plans to bring in his first load of steers this fall.
“It’s been rewarding to watch Ross and Levi take over the farming,” says Kevin. “Renee and I are so fortunate that our family lives nearby. We’re looking forward to slowing down and enjoying more time with our grandkids.”
Today the Browns are sharing with us a family favorite recipe that promotes the beef they raise.
“Memory Hot Dish a ‘go-to recipe’ for Mom when she has a lot of mouths to feed for lunch, plus it’s one of our favorites,” says Ross. “The calendar might not say ‘hot dish’ weather, but this week’s weather does! I had on a sweatshirt and flannel while doing chores earlier this week, so this recipe seems to fit the type of spring we are having.”
Memory Hot Dish
2 pounds of ground beef
1 quart of canned tomatoes
21-oz. can of BUSH’s Baked Beans
Salt and pepper
- Season ground beef with salt and pepper to taste.
- Brown beef with onion; drain well.
- Wash and slice or dice potatoes.
- In a 3-quart casserole dish, layer one-half ground beef followed by one-half potatoes and one-half can of beans.
- Repeat for the next layer.
- Pour over the quart of tomatoes with juice.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.