Lane Schwitters

Lane Schwitters’ grandfather took great pride in getting all five of his sons, including Lane’s father, started in farming from a young age. Lane always knew he wanted to carry on the family farming tradition and, along with two of his brothers, grows sugar beets as well as corn and black turtle beans (or black beans).

Sugar beets are the main crop in the area and really what their community is built around. It is common for sugar beet farmers to operate in a co-op, a community-focused, organized way for individual farmers to pool their resources to increase production and marketing efficiency. Lane’s father was a founding member of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (Southern Minn), the co-op Lane now has shares in. He’s a proud member of the co-op and of its willingness to always help the community. The co-op has in many ways become Lane’s second family, working alongside his neighbors to harvest his sugar beet fields as a group before sending them off for processing, and then doing the same for his neighbor.

Partnering on sustainability efforts is another way the co-op supports both the community and the industry. Recently, Lane partnered with Southern Minn and General Mills on a sustainability study. He learned a lot about emissions, fertility, fertilizer applications, and much more. Lane shared that as a result of their participation in the study his farm is now fertilizing as little as 5 acres compared to the previous 160 acres. Lane incorporates sustainability efforts in every season of his operation including the use of automatic shut off technology to be as precise as possible when planting and spraying. In the spring, they plant a cover crop to protect the beets from wind and maximize efficiency and sustainability, and in the fall they do their best to leave as much soil in the field as possible during harvest, returning any remaining soil back to the field after the beets are delivered to the processing facility.

Farming is an important piece of the local and national economy, and for the members of the Southern Minn Co-op, sugar beets and the real sugar they produce are a source of local pride. Lane shared an example of this pride: a local delicacy called a “Pickled Northern”. It is a local fish that gets sliced up and pickled with a little bit of sugar to help balance the acidity of the pickling agents and make the end product more palatable.

Lane remains passionate about his work as a farmer, community leader and father. He’s excited for his children to follow their own path and find something that makes them as happy as farming has made him. His daughter is in the process of becoming an English teacher and his son is studying to be an engineer.

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