Promoting agriculture

Farming is more than a part time job for Minneota’s Grant Moorse — it’s his passion

Photo by Mike Lamb Grant Moorse checks on his cattle at his small farming operation in Minneota that also includes chickens.

MINNEOTA — On a brisk December afternoon Grant Moorse inspected the pen holding his seven cows and then walked over to the small shed housing his chickens.

“It used to be a pig nursery back in the day,” Moorse said, as he stood inside the shed. “We have to use what we got.”

What Moorse has is exactly what makes him happy right now. A small farming operation in rural Minneota that keeps him in the business he loves. He grew up on a farm and he had to give up his own full time farming operation in 2016.

So now, with help from his wife, Denaca, Moorse’s present farming operation consists of raising some corn and soybeans, as well as raising cows/calfs and a few hundred broiler chickens for local sale.

“We have the dairy cows and a couple hundred head of feeder cattle. We got seven cows. But that’s fine. I still get my agriculture in and I’m still involved.”

So much involved, that he’s on the move day and night. During the day, Moorse works at North Star Mutual Insurance Company. But after his day job is done, he puts on his farming clothes. Even with his small farming operation, Moorse is busy promoting agriculture in not only Lyon County, but in southwest Minnesota, the state and throughout the nation.

Back in November, Moorse was elected to a one-year term on the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation board of directors as the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee chair during the 100th annual meeting in Bloomington. The committee is made up of young farmers and ranchers ages 18-35.

“I am honored to represent my community and southwest Minnesota and especially Minnesota’s young farmers and ranchers,” Moorse was quoted as saying in an MFBA press release. “I look forward to assisting with issues both on the board and committee level and working on programs that strengthen our rural communities and agriculture voice.”

The Moorses have been involved with the Young Farmers and Ranchers committee for three years.

“I’m not a farmer full time. Most people on the committee don’t farm full time. It’s a matter of making it work with your schedule,” Moorse said. “A lot of people think, oh, they are just for the big farmers. No, I would say most of our members are smaller.”

Moorse said MFBA helps to keep young farmers and ranchers involved by hosting events and helping them stay inform about legislation. Moorse has visited with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., twice and he is also stays connected with Minnesota legislators.

“You learn about the processes. It makes you aware that you are not the only group lobbying at the state Capitol,” he said.

Besides his friendship with Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, who was his neighbor while growing up, Moorse has also met with Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Tina Smith on several occasions.

“She (Smith) comes to a lot of our Farm Bureau things. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Redwood Falls, obviously is our ag champion, so I have met him countless times. It’s kind of nice, ag wise, that all our legislators are pretty much ag oriented,” Moorse said.

In his present MFBF capacity, Moorse said he has to be involved in all agriculture related issues throughout the state. That includes issues not affecting southwest Minnesota such as timber land and the wolf controversy. He said the wolves are getting pushed out of their natural habitat and into problem areas.

“The wolves are coming out of the forest because their numbers are so great and their territory keeps getting pushed down and down. It’s like those elk that made it down here. Nothing was wrong with them, they are just being pushed that far down. Wolves are taking cattle and calves,” he said.

On the national front, Moorse was pleased with the Farm Bill that passed Congress and was signed by President Donald Trump in December.

“It’s kind of like most things, we wish it was separate from SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), because it really shouldn’t be called a farm bill, especially when only 20 percent actually has to do with farming,” Moorse said. “But I think for the most part it’s going to be beneficial. We are hoping everything that has to do with the dairy producers actually takes effect. Right now, it’s maybe break even for those guys.”

Moorse believes in “give and take” when it comes to government legislation. He expressed the good and bad points about some of the more controversial legislative issues involving southwest Minnesota farming.

“The ditch mowing thing — most pheasants don’t lay their eggs in a ditch. Way too high of a traffic area,” Moorse said. “We are having a lot of problems with noxious weeds. When people don’t cut their ditches — look at Iowa — their weed problem is ridiculous. They are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on spraying weeds. We control noxious weeds in the ditches earlier.”

Moorse said not cutting the grass in the ditches early will lead to more problems in the long run.

“Some of these noxious weeds we haven’t seen in years or ever. They are starting to make their way up. That’s kind of our biggest thing — as well as livestock. We need hay. It’s not all that cost effective buying bales. It’s not as much guys that are just making hay to sell hay. I think there a lot of more pros in cutting the ditches earlier just like mowing your lawn,” he said.

Moorse doesn’t believe the buffer zones along lakes, rivers and streams are not necessarily a bad thing. But he also has his reservations on their effectiveness.

“They are not necessarily going to help. Studies have kind of shown they are not doing what they thought they were doing. Look at the Grand Canyon. When water wants to go and erode, it’s going to go and erode. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

Right now, Lyon County farmers are “doing OK.”

“I haven’t heard of any guys going under. I think we’re OK. There is going to be a lot of surprises though in the next few years if things don’t improve.”

But if a few farmers do fail, he believes they will adapt.

“I don’t see any shame in that,” he said. “I was farming full time. I had to quit. It happens. I’m not trying to be a poster child either. It’s OK. Everything is going to move on. There are more opportunities out there. That’s how it goes.”

Events in Washington, D.C., and in the world, are not scaring Moorse away from farming. He’s optimistic over Trump’s trade policies so far. With the tariffs, he believes the president is trying to “level the playing field” with the Chinese.

“Whether you are for Trump or not for Trump, the one thing everybody says is he has a plan and he stuck to it. No other president has done that,” Moorse said. I guess when you look at on the ag side, we have to be optimistic about it. You have to look at what he’s trying to do for the long run. Can you hold on for the short term? Hopefully. Is everybody going to be Ok? No, definitely not.

Hopefully, with everything opening up with Canada, Mexico and China again, things (prices) will start to rise, which they have a little bit. We are just going to have to see what they do.”

Meanwhile, Moorse is preparing for the future when it comes to his small farming operation. After selling his calves, Moorse will be concentrating on his broiler chickens. He only sells them locally. But he will be USDA certified for private selling this year. He’s in the process of setting up to sell his whole chickens at a local grocery store. In the past, selling his broiler chickens was by word of mouth only.

“It’s fairly laborious, especially when you compare a meat chicken to an egg laying chicken,” Moorse said. “We have egg laying chickens too, but you see them once a day and they lay their eggs and sit in hay. Feed them whatever they need and they are good to go. But boiler chickens they are feeding probably three times as much — and water consumption. I’m in there a couple times a day for at least an hour.”

Eventually, Moorse would like to raise cattle.

“I would really like to some day sell to a restaurant. We are natural. The chickens are natural. The cattle are natural. The chickens never had antibiotics anyways. We don’t use antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary, especially as small as we are.”