by Amanda Fanger, Reporter and Farmer
Sitting down to visit, an 80-year-old Holmquist man pulled a pen and a piece of paper out of his pocket and began to draw a line to illustrate a lesson he’s learned over the course of his life.
Mentioning there are two types of people in the world – pessimists and opportunists – he pointed above the line and said, “You’ve got to maximize what’s up here,” then while pointing below the line he continued, “Don’t get below here. Keep above the line, and keep growth in your mind. Growth in your spirit, growth in life. There’s opportunity beyond this day,” he said.
Lyle Berg was born in 1932 on the family homestead south of Holmquist.
Over the course of his life, he said he’s always dedicated himself to whatever task was before him.
“I never had too much time to think. I kept very busy,” he said. “I had a habit or tendency to work all the time. I was always doing something.”
Berg attended grade school in country schools around Holmquist. As a young boy, he would walk, ride his bike or a pony several miles every day to get to the schoolhouse.
Looking back on the physical journey he took daily to obtain an elementaryeducation, he laughed and said, “It kept me either in shape or out of shape.”
Berg graduated from Webster High School in 1950.
As the only boy in his family, Berg said he felt responsible for taking care of the family farm, so following his graduation, he spent a couple years working on the farm.
“Shortly after that is when the Korean thing kicked off,” he said. “Practically all the men, if you had suitable health, were joining (the military).”
In the spring of 1953, Berg was a member of a group of two dozen friends from Day County who decided to join up.
“I thought I was bettering myself by joining,” he said. “My family has always been dedicated to this country.”
Of the 24 who went in for physicals, 22 passed their exams.
Berg was with the same group of friends all through training but says, “The first few days were not comfortable,” because of all of the vaccinations they had to get and becoming accustomed to military life.
“Those three years seemed like an eternity,” he said.
After basic training he became eligible for transfer, Berg said with a laugh, “I wanted to go to Europe, but somehow ended up in Korea, which is not quite like Europe.”
During his 18-month tour overseas, the fighting in Korea stopped with the signing of a treaty in July of 1954.
In 1956, at the end of his military term, Berg decided to leave the armed forces and come back to South Dakota to go to college.
During his college years, Berg said that he would come back to the Day County area, work on the farm, and played on an amateur baseball league in Bristol.
“That was a lot of fun,” he said.
In the spring of 1960, Berg graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in civil engineering. Following graduation, Berg accepted a job offer in California. He was to start the job in the fall.
“As the only boy in my family, I felt in my conscience I should go back to the farm for at least the summer,” he said. But when fall came, he decided against taking the job after all.
“After you get out of school, then you start to learn something,” he said.
Instead, Berg began working at a consulting firm in Minnesota where he was employed from 1960 to 1963.
While working at that consulting firm, Berg said he was attending church one day when a woman walked in that caught his eye.
“I thought she looked pretty, responsible and neat,” he said.
In 1962, Berg was married to his wife, Arlee. She was from Zumbrota, Minn. They had three children.
Following his work with the consulting firm, Berg took an engineering job in Crystal, Minn, and then went to work at Bloomington, Minn, from 1964 to 1970.
Berg took a break from engineering when he went back to work in consulting from 1970 to 1971, but he said, “I decided I should stay in Bloomington.”
Berg worked in engineering in Bloomington until 2000.
All the time, Berg worked and lived in Minnesota, he said he was always coming back to the farm in Day County. It was in 1978 that he assumed full responsibility for his parents’ farm.
It was nothing, he said, for he and his family to make weekend trips back to South Dakota.
“The whole family played a part in the farm,” he said.
During the summer months, his children would stay with their grandparents on the farm. Berg says he thinks the farm taught his kids valuable lessons they could have learned no other way and which helped them along to careers in the military, medical and veterinary fields.
In 2000 Berg decided to quit his job in favor of farming full time. But just a year after he left, the company he had worked for in Bloomington asked him to come back.
Finally, in 2003, Berg retired totally from the engineering profession.
“I got deeply involved in the farm work,” he said. “I felt it was a responsibility rather than an opportunity.”
A few years after moving to Day County, the Farmers Elevator Company in Holmquist was looking to close. Because his grandfather had helped start that business in 1910, Berg said he had a desire to keep the business going.
“I certainly wasn’t looking for a job, but I just wanted to see it keep going,” he said.
Berg and a few others bought out the shares of the company in 2005, and kept it going for a little while longer, but it eventually closed in 2009.
After that he said, “I just became a more legitimate full-time farmer.”
Berg is also a selfdescribed tight wad. He said that was an asset when he worked in civil engineering because it made him conscious of how he spent taxpayers’ dollars.
A key to being fugal, he said is thinking ahead.
“You’ve got to prepare for the future the best you can,” he said.
Berg is involved in the Webster VFW and is a regular churchgoer.
Looking back, Berg says he’s known a lot of people who left the farm and got out of the area as soon as they could because all they could think of were the hard times on the farm.
“You don’t realize it so much, you remember the good things if you allow yourself to,” he said. “It’s the story of life that your physical needs aren’t the only thing you need in life.”
If you look at life like that, Berg says, “You have more respect for the attitudes and loyalties, the general environments around you versus your physical wellness.”
Berg has a dozen grandchildren. As grandparents, Berg says he and his wife are always running to see the grandkids in some school or church activity.