Richard may be a first-generation farmer, but farming is in his family history. His maternal grandfather was a farmer for part of his career and his paternal great grandfather was a farmer before he became a sheriff. Richard didn’t even grow up on a farmstead, the Russell family lived in town and Richard’s father was a CPA.

However, in 1984 the Russell’s bought some land and moved out of town onto the farm a few years later when Richard was in high school. At the time their land was being leased and farmed by another gentleman. When the lease ended in 1991, Richard and his brother started farming the family’s land themselves. After buying machinery from a friend they continued to grow the farm and purchased 240 acres from a neighbor in 1993. At the same time, Richard was also pursuing his accounting degree and preparing to join his father’s accounting practice, making Richard a part of two family businesses.

Over the years the Russell’s have grown corn, wheat, alfalfa hay, malt barley and forage grass and have also pastured cows. In the mid-90’s, the family made the decision to add sugar beets to their crop rotation. They had seen the positive economic effect the crop had on the local economy. Basin, Wyoming, is located just north of Worland, where the Wyoming Sugar Company sugar mill is located.

In 2001, Richard got married and now has four children. After his brother passed away in 2008, Richard began farming full time. His kids now participate in the family business too, setting water, moving beta pipe and more, Richard’s parents are also still involved at 72 and 73.

Considering Richard wasn’t raised on a farm, it is pretty incredible that he now has a family farm that encompasses three generations. Richard shared, “Ag can be a rewarding life, but a difficult life. You work so hard and there’s always something to do, but it makes it worthwhile when the whole family can all work together.” At the end of the day, Richard hopes his kids want to take over the farm, but more importantly he values the great memories and loves that they’re all doing it together.

One of Richard’s favorite things about agriculture and growing sugar beets is the amazing advances in technology that he has experienced. Technology like 24 row planters, GPS equipment, nematode resistance, seed tech and much more have led to uncapped potential for the agriculture industry. Richard started raising sugar beets before roundup ready beets existed and in the last 20 years he has seen at least a 50% increase in his yield on the same ground. Weather is uncontrollable, but technology continues to improve and it’s amazing the things that plants can resist.

If Richard could tell the world one thing it would be to rethink anti-GMO sentiment. “If we take away the seed technology, didn’t use genetically modified crops or took things like round-up resistance away, then there would be a lot less food and we will not be able to feed everybody.” Richard believes that farmers are here to provide everybody with a healthy, reliable and safe food source for the world. Farmers in America have risen to the challenge of feeding the country and making sure the population hasn’t outgrown food availability. With the use of agriculture science and genetically modified crop technology we have continued to outpace population growth with food production.

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