South Dakota Grassland Coalition

by Garnet Perman

Nov 2022

Daniel Gering

Daniel Gering is a first generation farmer in Turner County. Gering’s grandfather always wanted to farm, but due to medical advice regarding a health condition he sold out and started working for the local International Harvester dealer. He eventually bought the business and passed it on to Daniel’s father, Brad. Daniel worked at the dealership and also for several area farmers during high school and college including being on a custom harvesting crew. Being a third generation implement dealer was a possibility but the land kept calling him. “Farming is the one thing I never lost interest in,” he said.

The obstacles of acquiring land and machinery were considerable but Gering also had advantages. His paternal grandmother owned land he could rent. He had good experience with farm machinery and producers on both sides of the family that could give advice. He finished a geography degree at SDSU in 2013 and decided to pursue his dream of becoming a farmer. He developed a plan and started small, keeping his day job and farming on weekends. His then 89 year old grandmother partnered with him on his first crop in 2014–60 acres of corn and soybeans. He’s gradually added acres including purchasing a small farm in 2020. He happened to drive by a land for sale sign with a phone number on it not far from his grandmother’s land. He made the call and the owners were delighted to help someone who shared their East Freeman roots grow his business.

The machinery problem was solved by hiring custom workers and buying one or two necessary pieces a year. The USDA Beginning Farmer program proved to be a challenge to work through but provided relatively inexpensive financing. Good crop prices and timely rains helped at the beginning. He currently shares some machinery with his dad who bought land after deciding to sell the implement business. Brad jokes that he’s the oldest beginning farmer out there.

Daniel farmed conventionally for the first few years but his habit of reading and research, including a membership to the Soil Health Coalition enticed him to implement soil health practices. Gering started his soil health journey by planting cover crops that included radishes, barley, and peas. Small grains added diversity to the crop rotation. Three years ago he became one of the first to go fully no-till in an area where plowing to dry out the soil is a common practice. “The no-till drill is one of the best investments I’ve made,” he said.

The benefits of regenerative practices are showing up. Keeping live roots in the ground with cover crops has salt spots disappearing. The tilth of the soil has improved. After an unusually dry growing season his corn and soybeans yielded about half of his average but was better than others. “The tilled ground in the area this year yielded noticeably less than the no-till ground, and in some cases considerably so. I am also thankful for diversifying into small grains. The winter wheat crop was a little short of my intended goal, but it was the only crop this year that had no insurance claim.” He found out grasshoppers don’t like peas as they were the only part of his cover crop mix to survive their appetites.


Some of the sources he’s found helpful include Practical Farmers of Iowa YouTube channel which features videos of regenerative/organic farming principles and alternative grazing techniques geared for the Corn Belt. Agricultural Economic Insights podcast series about the Farm Crisis titled “Escaping 1980” was insightful. Gabe Brown and David Montgomery’s books offered a crash course on soil health. “He’s not for everyone, but I would also recommend the essays of Wendell Berry to anyone who really wants to contemplate what it means to farm and/or exist in a rural society.” He recently started a job adjusting crops which provides good learning opportunities as well as needed income. 


Next on Daniel’s plan. Like with land and machinery, he plans to start small. The goal is to be a full time producer within the next 10 years.

Garnet Perman is a freelance writer and ranches with her husband, Lyle, near Lowry, SD.

Source: SDGC Newsletter

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