“Raking in” a family tradition
As far as roots go, Cal Schaefer is literally, and figuratively, rooted firmly in place at the North Dakota Winter Show.
“I’ve had a booth right here since ‘73, in the same exact spot,” Schaefer said, pointing to the ground of the Main Exhibit building.
Schaefer began working at the show in 1963 doing general labor.
“I worked in the barns, wherever they needed help: cleaning, setting up all the rodeos and stage shows.” The job didn’t pay very well, as Schaefer recalled, “It was only a dollar and a quarter an hour.”
Seeking more fortune, he went into the farm equipment business in 1972, and returned to the show in an exhibitor’s booth. He has sat there every year since as a vendor selling Vermeer balers, mowers, wrappers and hay rakes.
“In the early days, there was a lot more exhibitors, smaller booths, more machinery, and not as much of the stuff we have now for the average Valley City citizen,” he said.
“There just aren’t as many machinery companies anymore; way, way less than there used to be. We don’t have near the competition, but then again we don’t have near the farmers we used to.”
Over the years, the business and the Winter Show exhibit has become somewhat of a family affair for the Schaefers, as Cal’s father Ralph, son Kyle, and grandsons Austin and Eric all pitch in with the equipment selling and booth duties.
“It’s the family business, and we had four generations in the shop for quite a few years. It’s kind of a long term deal here, and we’re also a centennial farm,” said Schaefer, who farms between Valley City and Rogers.
“It’s kind of a neat thing, (Cal) being up here for 40 years,” said Schaefer’s son Kyle. “And I’ve been helping out basically forever. I’m 40 years old and I’ve been here for 40 years.”
Kyle Schaefer is also confident that the family business will continue with its youngest generation.
“My older son Austin is definitely interested in all the stuff with all the family business and the farm. I think a family-owned business really means something to people.“
Recently, Cal Schaefer was honored by the North Dakota Winter Show Board for being one of the longest-tenured vendors at the show.
“It’s not very often that you have vendors that stick around for that long,” said Winter Show Manager Dawn Riley, who presented Schaefer with a plaque recognizing his services earlier this week. “They keep people coming back to buy from them and it’s good business for everyone.”
Riley said only Enterprise Sales, Rowse Hydraulic Rakes and Triple E have been vendors at the show longer.
Schaefer said the family farm has donated the hay and straw to the Winter Show for the livestock barns for the past few years, and show time is always a special occasion for the family. The reason he enjoys coming back year after year is, in his words, “Promoting Valley City. That’s my hometown, so we like to help them out.”