Clark Tacke, 28, and his wife, Sara, live in Cottonwood. Since 2012, he has owned and operated a farm between Greencreek and Grangeville with his dad, Cliff Tacke, where they raise wheat and barley, some canola, as well as grain hay.
As a representation of the next generation of producers, Clark talked about what got him into farming, what it’s like operating an operation with your dad, and his view on the industry and some of its issues. “After college, I went to work for a construction company for a short while. I didn’t care to be on the road a lot so I decided – this is kinda funny – to do a custom farm tour in Midwest. So, from April to Christmas 2009, I sat in a combine cab and harvested wheat and corn; nine months on the road sitting in a combine cab. It was fun but I probably won’t do it again. Though I did get to see a part of America I wouldn’t normally have gotten to see.”
So, what brought you back?
“Well, there’s no place like home, and I didn’t really want to live in the Midwest; it’s not as nice a place as here. It’s pretty hard to beat Idaho County as far as we have so much of everything here: You’ve got the farming lifestyle. If you’re the outdoorsy type, it’s a half-hour drive to the mountains or rivers, anywhere you want to go. People are nicer than anywhere I’ve been in America. It’s hard to beat home.”
How was coming back?
“It was awesome. I didn’t come immediately back to farm. My dad told I needed to get five years of other experiences after college before coming back to the farm, to make sure farming is what I wanted to do, because Farming is a lifestyle, not a job. So, I worked construction as a mechanic, did the harvest thing, came back home to work for Primeland as their custom sprayer operator. I got to see a lot of country, see more farming styles and meet some great people/farmers. I got more experience and went to work for The McGregor Company for about a year, again working as a custom applicator. And I finally got my five years of other experiences out of college and came back and started farming with Dad.”
Dad’s your boss: How’s that work out for you?
First of all, Dad is not my boss, he and I are business partners, He has his farm and I have my farm. With that being said, working for your dad is easier than working with your dad. Being a business owner with your dad takes a special relationship between father and son. It’s not seamless working with my father, but looking at other father-son businesses, I’d say ours is going to work out ok., When I was a little kid, I spent every spare moment I had with my dad, so it was easy for us to start working together.”
What differences do you find between you and your dad on farming?
“That’s an interesting thing. My dad and I aren’t a good example of generational difference. Other farmers that are my dad’s age are, for a lack of better words, stuck in their ways; they’ve been doing this for 50 years, ‘Why would we change?’ My dad and I aren’t that way. We’re always looking to do the same thing but better, and technology plays a big part in that. We’re always surrounded by technology and try to justify the latest and greatest in technology. For Example, we do a lot with variable rate application.”
He continued, “We realize some parts of the field aren’t going to produce crops like other parts of the field will so with variable rates we can put less money into those areas that aren’t going to return. We wouldn’t be able to do that without modern technology. We’ve been messing around with different seed rates, and we do a lot of experimenting with that. We have a lot of resources to help us with these types of decisions. Wasting time and product can be expensive. We’re trying to make the same amount of money and spend less at the start.”
“With Dad, I’d say we’re on the same page. I’d say we both have ideas and we never do something unless both of us are on board. We don’t fight each other on who’s got the better idea. We work really well together on a daily basis. I can see that [the multigenerational challenge] would be a thing. I am sure we have neighbors that way”
What’s your perspective on the industry today?
“There’s always going to be a need for agriculture; the world still needs to eat. As far as a career choice, I picked a pretty good one; there’s always going to be the need for a farmer. Now, farmers’ single biggest challenge is to convince the public we’re not trying to hurt them, Farmers are people to We have families that we want nothing less than the best for, we would not grow or do something on the farm that would be harmful to our own family.
On input prices: “We just have to figure out how to make it through. It takes a lot of money to grow a crop and if you’re not selling it for a balanced amount, it’s going to be tough for a while. But I don’t think it’s going to last. I don’t think the price of wheat will stay down. I think input plus the price of crops will balance out over time. A few years ago, we were at the top of the bubble; it was as wide as it could be and I think the bubble has popped and. I think it will re-inflate itself over time.”