April 14, 2024

Father’s graduation gifts build a legacy

Burgeners named as IPPA 2024 Family of the Year

The Burgener family, of Moweaqua, was named the Illinois Pork Producers Association 2024 Family of the Year. The Burgener farm was started by Charles and Carole Burgener in 1968 on a farm owned by Carole’s grandparents. They built their first confinement barn in 1976 and another barn two years later. Charles died unexpectedly in 1999 and his sons, Bret, Brad, Chad and Chris, carry on the farming operation. The Burgeners are independent farrow-to-finish hog farmers and they also raise row crops. The family includes Brad and wife Stacy, their children Kayla (Troy) Pinkston and Kelsey, and grandchildren Colt Pinkston and Charlee Pinkston; Bret and wife Angela; their children, Abbey, Brock and Alaina, and grandchildren Avery Stults, Quinn Stults and Banks Boyer; Chad and wife Jonna and their son, Ross; Chris and wife Betsy and their children, Ty, Griffin and Cade.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — When some young people graduate from high school or from college, their parents might gift them a car or a vacation.

Charles Burgener’s gift to each of his four sons, upon their graduations from high school or college, was a future in farming.

“When I came back to work on the farm, my dad increased about 200 sows. A few years later, my brother Chad graduated from college and we increased another couple hundred sows. Another brother, Chris, graduated from Lakeland College and we increased another couple hundred sows,” Bret Burgener said.

“Dad would wait until we committed to come back before he would increase. My dad made room for all of us along the way as we graduated and decided to come back to the farm,” Bret said.

Charles Burgener, who started the family farm in 1968, when he and his wife, Carole, started raising hogs, cattle and row crops on a farm owned by Carole’s grandparents, died unexpectedly in 1999.

His sons continue on the farm story. Today, the farm is an independent farrow-to-finish hog farm, which markets its hogs to JBS in Beardstown. They now farm 3,000 acres and farrow 800 sows.

The Burgener family, of Moweaqua, is the Illinois Pork Producers Association 2024 Family of the Year.

Charles Burgener built his first confinement barn, a gestation barn, in 1976. Two years later, he built another barn, a nursery barn.

Along the way, he instilled a love for farming and raising hogs in his four sons.

“We all grew up working on the farm, when we were high school and even in grade school. He just taught us a good work ethic and instilled that in us. We just enjoyed being on the farm. We saw it as a good place to raise a family,” Bret said.

The Burgeners survived through the tough times of farming, from the 1980s through the 1990s that saw many independent hog farms go out of business. The family decided to focus solely on hogs and row crops and sold their cattle in 2015.

“You just have to save money back when you have the good times for whenever you have the bad times and you hopefully get through it,” Bret said.

Brad Burgener was the first of the brothers to return to the farm, when he graduated from high school.

“When my dad was planning this out, he would put us in charge of a certain area that we would have to manage. We each had a different area, an area that we liked to do. When my dad passed away, we continued on and we kept that same philosophy, where we manage different parts of the farm, so we aren’t stepping on each other’s toes. You try to make a decision that’s best for the farm, not for you personally, but what’s best for the farm,” Bret said.

He manages the wean-to-finish part of the farm and is in charge of ordering feed ingredients. He also spearheads new projects or buildings on the farm.

The family who works on farm includes Brad’s wife, Stacy, who does the bookkeeping formerly done by Carole Burgener, who retired in 2011.

Brad and Stacy’s daughter, Kelsey; Bret’s son, Brock; and Bret’s son-in-law, Nolan Boyer, are the fourth generation to work on the farm.

Bret said he enjoys what he does every day and enjoys working with family on the farm.

“I enjoy going to work every day. I like the challenge of doing a better job every day of taking care of the pigs, figuring out different problems. Many people don’t like it, but I love working with family. I love to see them and interact with them on a daily basis,” he said.

Fellow hog farmer Jason Propst, who nominated the family, recognized that in his nomination.

“They make the farm a place everyone wants to be, while making it possible for the younger generation to return and succeed,” Propst said.

The family on the farm is supplemented by several employees.

“Right now we have some of the best employees anybody could ever ask for,” Bret said.

The introduction of technology in all parts of the hog farming operation, especially when it comes to manure application and the row crop farming, is one of the biggest advancements that Bret has seen in his farming career.

When it comes to the swine industry, improvements in genetics have made a big difference.

“With manure application now, we have rate controllers and GPS. On the hog side, the big jump in pigs per sow per year has been amazing. With the genetics we have now, these girls just produce a lot of pigs,” Bret said.

The Burgener family is active in their local community, as well, with involvement in the Shelby County Pork Producers and the First Christian Church in Moweaqua.

The family has donated pork to a variety of causes and fundraisers over the years, including to the Central A&M Foundation, Central A&M Art Club and the local pregnancy crisis center.

“We just feel and have always felt that we need to give back and we want to give back.

My brothers and I try to help people who are going through hard times,” Bret said.

He said his advice for anyone wanting to return to a farm, as he and his brothers did, would be the lesson that his father taught him and his brothers.

“Just don’t spend beyond your means. Live within your means and it’s a great living. I would recommend it if you can do it financially,” he said.

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor