Henry Brinkman was a beginning producer in 1967 when he went to his father’s lender at the local Farm Credit office, and took out his first farm loan. He borrowed enough to buy five dairy cows, doubling the size of his operation.
On May 20 of that year, he married. Julie Brinkman smiles as she recalls the thoughts of a young bride: “I had married a rich farmer and I was never going to have to work.”
But even in tough economic times – and the ‘80s were so tough that Julie had to find a job to help support the couple’s South Dakota farm -- they remained rich.
“Rich in love,” as the couple says.
Friends and family, including two daughters and two grandchildren, plan to gather soon to celebrate the Brinkmans’ 50th wedding anniversary. At Farm Credit Services of America, we are marking another milestone – a half-century lending relationship with Henry and Julie.
“We’re in this business because of people like you,” Insurance Account Specialist Kris Monger recently told the couple as several team members in the Sioux Falls office shared stories of Henry’s diligence in providing accurate financial information, the integrity the couple brings to their business, and the joy they find in farming.
Six financial officers have served Henry and Julie over the years, and the couple can recite the name of each officer. Both laugh when they mention their second financial officer.
“Oh, Julie was mad at him,” Henry chuckles.
“He looked at me,” Julie recalls, “and said, ‘If you’re going to make it, you have to go to work in town.’ I did not like that man.”
Julie still was angry the next day when she applied for – and got – a job at a nursing home. She continued to work in town for the next 30 years -- and it turned out to be one of the best pieces of advice she ever received, she says. Henry was able to continue farming full-time, eventually milking 45 cows on his own while also row cropping and, at times, rearing hogs on their farm outside Ramona. She found her nursing home work rewarding.
“You’d go to work at 4 a.m. and often not get home until 3 in the afternoon,” Henry recalled.
“And you would do everything at home,” Julie replied. “It all worked out.”
Henry attributes the longevity of his farming career to the advice his father gave him when he was starting out: Only borrow if you have to and never more than necessary.
“That’s how I survive. You make do with what you’ve got . . . I always talked over any purchase with you guys,” Henry says of his FCSAmerica financial team.
“It has been nice to have another sounding board,” Julie adds.
Henry has always preferred to farm without hired help and has scaled his operation accordingly. The family milked 45 cows at the peak of the dairy. But Julie – and hands pained from years of milking – convinced Henry to give up milking in 2000.
His love of the animals meant 40 stock cattle – each named by a grandchild -- have replaced dairy cows on the farm. With Julie now retired, both share the chores. Neither sees a day when Henry will give up his operation. Farming gave them a lifetime of laughs, it gave their daughters a work ethic that has made them successful in their careers and it continues to draw family back home to work side by side.
Farming is what he does for enjoyment, Henry says.
“We’ve had a good 50 years, and I’m glad to have been associated with Farm Credit for those 50 years,” he says. “Thank you for sticking with us.”