“They always told us: ‘Don’t get carried away,’” Doug says. “Things look good now, but we need to prepare for the next bad year.”
Doug’s great-grandfather started out farming near Glenvil, east of Hastings, but during World War II, the U.S. government took the land for an ammunition depot, so he moved to the Trumbull area. Today, Doug, Dan and their sister – who’s married to a farmer – are all close by: “You can drive around the section and you can be at all of our places,” Doug says, which makes it easy to help each other out.
Doug attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), majoring in business. “When I went to college, I wasn’t planning to farm. But I missed being outdoors,” he says, so that business degree got swapped for a major in diversified agriculture. He graduated in 1996.
Doug met his wife Gail, who’s from North Platte, at UNL. He lived in Burr Hall, she lived in nearby Love Hall, and the rest is history. Gail teaches sixth grade at Doniphan-Trumbull School and their older daughter Emma, 8, is a third grader there. Younger daughter Erin, 5, will start kindergarten this fall at the same school.
The Saathoff farm grows corn and soybeans, and seed corn for Pioneer. Nearly all of the land is irrigated, about half with gravity irrigation, and most of the rest with more water-efficient center pivots.
Doug recently installed drip irrigation on a former gravity field that’s too irregular for a pivot. “We were wasting too much water on that field, and we definitely want to conserve water,” he explains. So do his neighbors: a lot of drip irrigation systems are being installed in the area. “As farmers, we are conserving the land and the water. We’re not out there putting more fertilizer or chemical on our crops than we need to,” he emphasizes.
The biggest challenge in farming, Doug says, is trying to control costs and remain profitable to support the farm and keep it going. He’s focusing on implementing newer technologies that help with that goal and support the environment. His tractors now have GPS and he traded planters so he can use variable-rate planting and variable-rate fertilizer application so he can farm more precisely.
Doug is an occasional golfer and about 10 years ago he was invited to the Adams County Farm Bureau golf outing. That led to an invitation to join Farm Bureau and attend the county Farm Bureau board meeting. This summer Doug is completing his term as county president. With his leadership, Adams County Farm Bureau has developed a close relationship with the Hastings Chamber of Commerce and collaborates with the chamber on events such as coffees with state senators. During National Agriculture Week in March, Adams County Farm Bureau hosts Hastings’ “Business after Hours” gathering.
That close relationship led to the Hastings Chamber of Commerce being the first local chamber in Nebraska to adopt a resolution in support of livestock farming. “We had meetings with the chamber about the Humane Society of the United States and its animal rights agenda, and then the chamber executive, Tom Hastings, took up the cause.” Now several local chambers have adopted similar resolutions.
Although his operation is all crops, Doug says it’s important for crop farmers to stand up for livestock producers: “They’re my main customers, and every livestock producer I know takes good care of their animals.”
Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.