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Agronomist and optimist: Oberg always hopeful for a good crop

Dilworth - Russell Oberg, agronomy manager of Kragnes Farmers Elevator, compares the business of agronomy to the Minnesota Vikings.

“When the season starts, you’re undefeated. You’re going to get the big crop. Everybody is optimistic going into planting. If you weren’t optimistic, you wouldn’t be in this business,” Oberg said. “That’s the way all the farmers have to think, and same with us. We expect a big year every year. Then we adjust for the weather and other things we can’t control.”

Q. What does an agronomist do?

I sell fertilizer, chemical and seed. That’s what my job is. I’m in charge of sales.

We do a little bit of everything here though. In the spring, the grain guys will help with agronomy. Now in the fall, I’ll help on the grain side.

What does ‘help on the grain side’ mean?

Helping grain means I’ll dump trucks, haul grain, fill railroad cars. A little bit of everything.

How do things look this year?

This year we figure our corn acres are down 40 percent and probably our agronomy sales will be down 40 percent.

Was that because of the wet spring?

Definitely. Acres were switched to soybeans and some sunflowers, which require less input, but there are a lot of acres not planted. (Input are items such as fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides and pesticides.)

In this area, the farmers tried until way past the limit. I would say a lot of the prevented planted acres have never not been planted. It was just really wet. We had a really tough time this spring even with our fertilizer spreader.

Did you grow up on a farm?

I grew up on a farm near Ulen (Minn.). I farmed for 20 years near Ulen, too.

What made you become an agronomist?

I started selling seed along with farming, and sales was always easier for me. It’s more consistent than farming. Farming is up and down. In fact, right now prices are down. There is no commodity making money right now. Corn, beans, sugar beets, nothing is returning over production costs right now.

Right now, we’re looking for another agronomist, but it’s hard to find people in this field. NDSU helps us, but there are more people looking for those graduates than are available.

Are fewer people going into the profession?

There is just bigger demand for ag help with the increase in corn acres planted.

I tried other sales jobs before, but farmers really are the best customers.