Entire family in front of tractor.

The Trail Family has been farming the same land for more than 80 years. Rusty’s grandfather initially rented 80 acres from his would-be brother-in-law and soon fell in love with Rusty’s grandmother, which officially planted him in the Pasadena Valley.   They’ve been growing sugar beets there ever since.

Idaho is known for the potato, but the Trail family has a good reason for growing sugar beets. Potatoes grow best in loose, sandy soil; sugar beets grow well in a variety of soil types including the heavier, clay soil on the Trail’s land in the Pasadena Valley. Since the early 1940’s they have only missed one season of sugar beet growing. Sugar beets are more than just a crop to Rusty and his family: raising beets is a tradition.

Rusty knew he wanted to do something with ag, “it’s in my blood,” he shared. Although he grew up having chores on the farm and always helped out, Rusty actually fell in love with the family business when he left home for college. His interest in the family farm continued to grow while he was away, and he found himself missing it. He returned home and started his own business called Paradise Acres. Rusty learned how to budget, go to the bank and ask for money, and all the nitty gritty parts of running a business from his experiences with Paradise Acres. After seeing success with his own business, his dad, Rocky Trail, brought him into the family business (Trail Family Farms) as an employee. Rocky taught Rusty everything and truly mentored him until they became equal partners.

Rusty fondly recalled his dad asking his advice and then disagreeing with it for the first few years. Over the years, he slowly moved from considering Rusty’s advice to actually implementing it. This period of mentorship and growth allowed Rusty to learn so much from his father’s expertise and is an irreplaceable aspect of a successful family business.

Rusty would love to pass the baton to his son Parker and daughter Addison, but modern-day farming presents new challenges to the family business dynamic. Back in the day most farm equipment was a few thousand dollars, so it was normal to have your kids hop on and start helping out at a young age. Today the equipment is hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Beyond the financial responsibility of using the machine without error, there is also a lot of new technology integrated into modern farm equipment and training required to use it all correctly. It is not nearly as easy to get the next generation involved at 10 or even 15 years old.

Today, Trail Family Farms is about 2,500 acres. In addition to sugar beets, they grow alfalfa hay for dairy cows and soft white wheat. When he’s not running the family business with his father and wife, Jenn, Rusty likes to enjoy some sugar through a nice glass of whiskey (yes sugar is used to make many alcohols!). However, “everything in moderation,” he added seriously.

If Rusty could tell the world one thing, Rusty would say “sugar is sugar.” It’s all the same sucrose and he wants the truth out there to cut through all the sugar myths and fallacy-based GMO fears.

Rocky (left) and Rusty Trail (right) in front of their award-winning sugar beets.

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