You might say Debbie and Terry Borg of Allen, Neb., had their first date in a cornfield. She had just moved to the state as district sales manager for eastern Nebraska for a seed company that is now part of Syngenta. Two-and-a-half hours of discussing the health and potential of the crop led to other meetings and their marriage two years later in 1995.
Debbie grew up on her family’s acreage near Berthoud, Colo., and helped with her family’s purebred Suffolk sheep operation. She showed sheep in 4-H and earned college money by “fitting sheep” – getting them ready for competition. She earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and later coursework for a master’s of agriculture with a communications emphasis, both from Colorado State University.
Terry’s great-grandparents purchased 160 acres near Wakefield after they came to the U.S. from Sweden; he’s the fifth generation of his family to farm. Terry and Debbie’s wedding on July 1, 1995, was exactly 100 years after his great-grandparents’ wedding on the same date in 1895. It was a great honor, Debbie says, when they had the opportunity four years ago to buy the home place where Terry’s grandmother grew up.
Terry and his three brothers all farm together and also have their separate farming operations. Some of his brothers have cow-calf operations, but Terry and Debbie “background” cattle: They care for cattle weighing about 500 to 600 pounds and feed them hay and corn from their farm until the animals are about 900 pounds and ready to go to the feedlot.
“The feedlots are really great at putting the last 300 to 400 pounds on them,” Debbie explains. The Borgs retain ownership of their animals so they have options for marketing the finished cattle.
The couple has three children: Hannah, almost 16; Heidi, 14; and Hunter, 11. The children attend Wakefield Public Schools and all are 4-H’ers. They’ve shown horses and bucket calves, along with doing sewing and cooking projects.
Hunter has five cows of his own and also feeds bucket calves, with some support from his Dad and Uncle. His bucket calves are put in with the family’s pens of cattle and he retains ownership of the animals when they go to the feedlot.
“As someone who grew up outside of production agriculture, I really believe some farmers are born with dirt in their blood – and that would be our son,” Debbie says. This summer Hunter ran the tractor and packed silage by himself.
The Borgs grow soybeans as well as corn and Debbie has been a leader for the industry. She is a soy educator for the Nebraska Soybean Board and visits fourth grade classrooms in northeast Nebraska, explaining how soybeans are used in so many products that affect our lives daily.
“I’m continually amazed how many rural kids don’t know any more about agriculture than city kids,” she says. “I have to be intentional with my own children, in making sure they understand what we do on the farm and why. They are bombarded with so much information and a lot of it doesn’t support sustainable agriculture.”
Debbie also educates and informs about agriculture through her blog, “Growing Food….Our family farm story.”
She is also past president of the Nebraska Soybean Association and was the American Soybean Association’s point person on animal care issues. Her leadership experience has been wonderful, she says. “It’s been an amazing opportunity and privilege to represent soybean farmers” with the Nebraska Legislature and Congress. She urges all farmers to participate in their commodity and farm organizations:
“Every acre counts, just as every vote counts. There’s so few of us (farmers and ranchers), we need everyone to be involved, no matter what size your operation. We need to have a collective voice on issues and that’s why our organizations are so important: If we are not there to share our stories, a lot of other organizations will try to do it for us. There’s no better people to tell our story than those who get their hands dirty and make farming work.”
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.