MCC Brothers carry on tradition of faith, family, farming

By Pam Berenger -

Brothers Bradley and Nick Erickson walk the path of their forefathers, following the simple values of faith, family and farming.

"Family is pretty much everything to me," Bradley said. "Faith and family, and I think farming fits nicely into those values. It's a great way to raise a family."

Those values were passed down from their father, Dave Erickson, who learned them from his father, Wayne Erickson, who learned them from his father, Marion "Fergie" Erickson, who learned them from his father, Meigs Erickson, who immigrated to the United States from Sweden at the age of 17, settling about three miles west of where Bradley, 25, and Nick, 28, now live.

The brothers smile as they talk of where they've landed, close to the middle of where their lives have been spent working on their grandparents' farm a few miles to the west and their parents' farm a few miles to the east.

Looking at each other across the dining room table near Reynolds, they agree there is nowhere else they want to be and nothing else they want to do with their lives. The farm is where they want to work and raise their families.

Both graduated from Rockridge High School and Muscatine Community College with degrees in agriculture management. They weren't involved in 4-H or the high school's FFA program. They worked alongside their father and grandfather and knew what they wanted from life.

"We always wanted to farm," Nick said. "We looked up to our parents and grandparents. They were inspiring. It always seemed good. It is good."

Bradley agreed and said many factors went into their decision to farm, but the key point was being able to be with family.

Their workday starts with a meeting with their father and grandfather. They said they work together most of the time because of what can be accomplished together.

"It's like living a dream," Bradley said. "If you love what you do, it's not like work. Even on the worst day, when everything has gone wrong, if you're doing what you love, it doesn't change anything. It's still living the dream."

Farming takes initiative, motivation and a lot of hard work. It's a tough business to break into without the help of family. With farmland prices at about $8,000 per acre and stiff competition for leased ground, the men know that times would be tougher if they didn't work for their family.

They lease about 400 acres between the two of them and always are on the lookout for more.

There's flexibility in farming that the men like, but there also is the responsibility of being your own boss. The boss always is going to feel guilty about leaving a job undone, they said.

"You could let something go," Nick said. "But at the end of the year it would show."

They said one of the toughest parts of starting their own farming operations was coming to grips with the reality that they had to invest a certain amount of money and not see a return for 12 months.

"Being a farmer, you have to put a lot of faith in God," Nick said. "Putting a seed in the ground and knowing that it will grow, well, it makes you have a lot of faith. It's very humbling. We are just the stewards of what is taking place."

"All the credit goes to God," Bradley said.

As stewards, the brothers said they believe in taking care of the Earth. All the ground the family farms, as well as the land they lease, is 100 percent no-till to keep soil loss at a minimum. And every year, they complete at least one conservation practice to improve the ground.

To reduce the amount of chemicals used on the field, the Ericksons employ soil sampling every two years and variable rates to ensure they're not using more chemicals than needed on any part of the field.

Farming never is routine, and there is a new challenge every day. They said it would be hard for them to do the same job every day and never see an end product, only the week's paycheck.

In farming, they see the reward when the plant emerges through the soil and continue to see the reward as it grows and finally is harvested.

"At the end of the year, when it's all in the bin, all the work is worth it," Nick said. "Farming is its own reward. It gives you a sense of pride at the end of the day."