By Mavis Fodness
Growing up in Lismore, a community of 227 individuals in the western fringes of Nobles County, Matt Loosbrock would help area farmers pick up rocks or bale small straw squares -- back-breaking activities that would have had any other high school student looking for a less physically-demanding job and not choosing the farming profession as a career.
“How does a banker’s kid end up in farming?” he said with a hardy laugh.
The answer was easily answered by the 30-year-old by pointing to a picture of himself as a child sitting with his late grandfather, Richard Klein, in a cab of a John Deere tractor. Loosbrock said he always enjoyed visiting his mother, Jeanne’s, parents near Adrian. Those early agricultural experiences drew him to work on area farms during summer and holiday vacations while he was in high school and extending through his time at Rasmussen College, where he earned his business degree.
About two years later, Loosbrock, whose family has operated the State Bank of Lismore for four generations including his father, Mark, was sitting behind a desk in a Sioux Falls, S.D. bank. He said he regularly traveled to Lismore, where he continued to assist the farming brothers of Kevin, Steve and Mark Knips.
“Basically, one week of sitting in the office, staring out the window during harvest – it was just driving me nuts -- and I wasn’t enjoying the banking so I came home one weekend and while I was out there, I talked to Mark and asked if they were looking for help,” he said.
In the back of Loosbrock’s mind was the advice from his Grandpa Klein, whose father was also a farmer: You’ve got to do what you love.
“I gave my two weeks notice at the bank and became a hired man,” Loosbrock said with a broad smile. “Could I have made more money banking? Yes, but I didn’t enjoy it.”
For the next six years, he said he worked fulltime for the Knips brothers’ hog, cattle and crop operation.
“They taught me how to farm,” Loosbrock said. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without their help.”
After a year working fulltime as a farm hand, he said he approached his Grandpa Klein, who retired from farming in the 1990s, and asked if he could rent his land in hopes of affording his own operation one day.
“Finding ground is like winning the lottery,” Loosbrock said. “It’s not easy to find. As a beginning farmer and having a lot of debt, you’re not able to pay the high-dollar rent.”
Given the chance by his grandfather, he said he was able to use his employers’ equipment until he could afford his own and began building his farming operation to the 200 acres he operates today, including the original 80 acres farmed by his grandfather. Loosbrock said he balanced being a fulltime farmhand and building his own operation for six years. He said he if wanted to continue to grow, however, he had to quit working for the Knips brothers and focus on his own operation, which he did last year.
He said farming has definitely changed from his grandfather’s days.
“That’s what I kind of find amazing about the different times: My grandpa had a quarter section of ground that he raised six girls off of. I have 200 acres of ground right now and it’s definitely not your full-time occupation,” he said.