Podcast Episode 32

Fall Tiling Check-in: Minnesota

With Guest:
  • Mike Litzau of Litzau Farm Drainage

Mike Litzau from Litzau Farm Drainage joins Jamie on the Fall Tiling Series. In this episode, Mike and Jamie catch up on the work Litzau Farm Drainage is doing in West Central Minnesota, how the season is shaping up and how land sales may correlate to 2022 when it comes to water management projects.

Episode 32 | 10:39 min
If you're gonna pay top dollar for land, you have to make sure that it produces as much as it can. You gotta do something with water management to maximize it so it pays you back.

Guest Bio

Mike Litzau and his three brothers own Litzau Farm Drainage. Litzau Farm Drainage has been in the drainage industry since 1974 and is located in Atwater, Minnesota.

Jamie Duininck (00:02):
This is The Water Table.

Kent R. (00:05):
The chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues.

Jamie Duininck (00:09):
A place for people to go find information and education.

Matt H. (00:13):
Water management is just going to become even more critical into the future.

Jamie Duininck (00:19):
How misunderstood what we do is.

Kent R. (00:25):
I would encourage people to open their minds and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie Duininck (00:36):
Well, welcome back to The Water Table Podcast, continuing on with our week of just talking to drainage contractors and water management contractors out in the field. I have Mike Litzau with Litzau Farm Drainage on the phone. Mike, how are you doing today?

Mike Litzau (00:51):
Good, yourself?

Jamie Duininck (00:52):
Yeah. Going well. It’s a blustery cold day out there and feels like we’re coming to the end of a great season of water management, but you got a little time left you think, or what are you thinking about? What’s happening out there today?

Mike Litzau (01:09):
Yeah, I’d say looking at the future forecast, they keep warming it up a little bit, but I’d say we got two weeks, maybe three weeks for sure.

Jamie Duininck (01:21):
Okay.

Mike Litzau (01:24):
I don’t think there’s any frost yet, or very little frost, but overall, it’s little wet in some spots. Pretty good in most spots.

Jamie Duininck (01:36):
Yeah. And, just for our listeners, the Litzaus work central Minnesota, and tell us a little bit about your geographical kind of work area that you’re working in most of the time.

Mike Litzau (01:53):
We do a lot around the Wilmer, Minnesota, and then we get up north of St. Cloud. And we get up by the…just south of Fargo. We’re doing a bunch of work in there. So we’re covering a good chunk of Minnesota now, a touch into North Dakota and south of South Dakota a little bit too.

Jamie Duininck (02:18):
Sure.

Mike Litzau (02:20):
We get spread around and see a pretty good area.

Jamie Duininck (02:24):
Yeah. And this year, 2021, has been a good year. I know for a lot of our industry, including having visiting with you, a lot of that’s just been really great weather that we’ve had to work with, so when you’re out there, you can be really productive. What’s a typical project that you guys would be working on day in and day out as the Litzau crews.

Mike Litzau (02:52):
I guess I tell everyone drainage is seasonal. It’s seasonal because you go from running your plows in the spring to doing excavator dozer work and then back to running your plows heavily or more in the fall again. So a typical work day, get up, try to be the field at 7:00, 7:30 and work till dark plowing in a bunch of pipe, whether it’s a big pipe or just lateral pipes.

Jamie Duininck (03:26):
Yeah. Are you guys doing a lot more pattern work these days, or are you still doing a fair amount of like random tile projects or how’s that work?

Mike Litzau (03:35):
No, I would say we definitely do a lot of pattern work because our farmers see that benefit. They’re seeing the return, whether it’s a year like ’21 where it’s a little dry or the past years where it’s been a little wet, it just really seems like they’re all seeing that return. And that return is more prominent when it’s pattern tile versus spot tiling. When you start working with someone, newer people just can’t quite… Don’t know if they want to spend the money to pattern tile, but once they do it, they rarely go back to spot tiling because the return is just so much better when you pattern tile.

Jamie Duininck (04:26):
Sure. How you feel going into 2022? We’ve got… We’ve all been seeing, and I know you and I have visited offline about what can kind of as our… Just for our listeners, I live in the same area that a lot of the area that the Litzaus work. And so, talk about kind of what’s going on in the community, and land prices just continue to go up and some record prices this fall on land sales. And how do you think that correlates to 2022, when it comes to water management projects?

Mike Litzau (05:12):
You got to pay for that land somehow. And if you’re going to pay top dollar for land, you got to make sure that land produces as much as it can. And whether you got to irrigate it or drain tile it, you got to do something with water management to maximize it, so it pays you back. So land prices are, I was just reading this morning there’s some in Iowa, quite a bit, that went for $17.8 yesterday.

Jamie Duininck (05:41):
Really? Yeah. I’ve heard some of that, but I don’t know about that one.

Mike Litzau (05:46):
Yeah. There was like three or four different parcels, and they all brought $17.8, so prices are high. The farm’s got to produce.

Jamie Duininck (06:01):
Yeah, for sure. And what’s your…

Mike Litzau (06:04):
I’m looking pretty optimistic. I think next year will be another good year.

Jamie Duininck (06:08):
Yeah. That’s kind of what we’re seeing. Do you feel like if you get another three weeks here in Minnesota tiling, we’re talking to your Thanksgiving week, that’s average to maybe a little bit longer than historical average that you’re going to be able to work, are you going to be able to get everything done that, that you planned on getting done for this year? Or is there going to be some carry over work?

Mike Litzau (06:38):
I would say, now… If we would’ve talked a few weeks ago, I would’ve said, “I think we’ll almost get it all done,” but I would say with a little bit of weather spat, we had last week and seemed like even a couple weeks before that we had rains on Wednesdays, so we were losing like a day and a half production every week. I think we’re going to end up with a little carry over now, but overall, we’re still pretty productive. So I say that as long as it don’t get too cold, too fast, and we don’t have six inches, eight inches of frost overnight, I anticipate we’ll probably get that two to three weeks of work in.

Jamie Duininck (07:25):
Yeah.

Mike Litzau (07:27):
We’ll see. I think we’ll be sitting pretty good.

Jamie Duininck (07:32):
Yeah. Good. How about anything you worked on over the last year or working on current that would be kind of unique to what you do or cool projects that involve water management?

Mike Litzau (07:52):
I might have to think about that one for a little bit.

Jamie Duininck (07:55):
Sure.

Mike Litzau (07:57):
We like to put in some [inaudible 00:07:58] every year.

Jamie Duininck (08:00):
Okay.

Mike Litzau (08:01):
I guess one thing we use and do differently there is we like to put in more linear footage and use washed sand, and then we just tell the farmers to completely dig them, act like they’re not there. It’s an alternative to using a rock inlet. We like to do those, and I like the fact just dig them up, do whatever the farmer wants to do, really don’t worry about them. Did some county main lines.

Jamie Duininck (08:32):
So you guys have done some you’ve done some not that necessarily unique, but some really large projects on some of them county mains, big pipe and a lot of lineal footage.

Mike Litzau (08:45):
Yep, every one of those brings a different little challenge. They’re all just a little bit different, and deep digging big pipe just takes a little longer, but they’re always fun to do and [inaudible 00:09:02].

Jamie Duininck (09:04):
Yeah, for sure. Well, Mike, I know you’re out working today. We start with cold and blustery day here in Minnesota, and I don’t want to take too much of your time. I hope that I warmed you up a little bit. You could sit in the pickup and chat for a few minutes.

Mike Litzau (09:20):
That’s what I was going to say. Got to sit in the pickup.

Jamie Duininck (09:25):
Yeah, glad I could help out today. Thanks for joining us today on The Water Table and make sure you and your family take some time and and enjoy your Thanksgiving and finish the season really strong and safe with all your crews.

Mike Litzau (09:40):
Yep, we will.

Jamie Duininck (09:42):
Yep, good. Well, thanks for your time, Mike Litzau from Litzau Farm Drainage, joining us and have a great rest of the year.

Jamie Duininck (09:53):
Well, thank you to all of you for tuning in to our fall tiling check-in. It’s fun to talk to some of our customers and see how things are going this fall. I just want to wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Just super grateful for all of our listeners. Hope you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving and some time together this weekend.

Jamie Duininck (10:23):
If you enjoy what you’re listening to, you can find us on your favorite podcast platform. You can find us on Twitter or Facebook and you can also find us at watertablepodcast.com. Thanks for listening.