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20

A career off the farm was what Doug Sombke wanted when he headed off to college in 1978. However, it was only a few weeks into his freshman year when he decided that he should head back to his family’s Conde farm.

“Sitting in class, I began to think of how many heifers or ewes I could buy with the money I had just spent on books and college tuition,” said Sombke, 55, a fourth-generation farmer.

Until those thoughts in college, Sombke had thought of nothing else but using college as a way to escape the farm. “It was hard work and there was little reward.” At that point in the 1970s, the future of farming wasn’t too bright. But Sombke had discovered his calling.

So with 38 acres and a flock of just 150 ewes he owned with his brother, Sombke started to build his farming operation. To support him in the early days, his Dad allowed Sombke to use his machinery in exchange for labor. He also sharecropped and leased ground from neighbors who were retired. Some of these neighbors sold their land to him.

“It was a different time. My neighbors didn’t pit me against another neighbor or family member trying to get the best price; they felt fortunate to have someone farm their ground who they knew would take care of it,” Sombke said.

Later, Sombke would marry Mel and they would have four children together. Two, twins Bryce and Bryan, became business partners. Sombke suggested looking into building a hunting lodge and business. This was a good prospect as there was a large pheasant population in the local area.

So they converted a 1950s grain bin into a hunting lodge and started to market their new venture by going to sportsman shows across the US. “You talk to thousands of hunters and maybe book 12 guys, but that’s what it took to get started,” Bryan recently stated.

Today, the twins now are booked out, hosting approximately 80 hunters every year.

In addition to the lodge, the pair raise pointing Labradors and train them as hunting dogs. Each year they train about 20 dogs and sell up to 50 puppies. This has become part of the family’s legacy.

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