BLOOMER, Wis. — Maj. Jared Siverling, currently an operations officer with the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 64th Troop Command, was enjoying a small gathering at a local restaurant four months ago to celebrate returning from a deployment to the Middle East as part of the 26-member 157th Military Engagement Team, building partner capacity with ally nations in the Middle East. He was surprised when his friend Justin Clark, who lives an hour away, showed up.
Once he heard a tractor running outside, things began to add up.
Awaiting Siverling in the cold February sunshine was a refurbished 1971 John Deere 3020 tractor that his grandfather, Mervin Rediger, purchased new nearly 50 years ago.
“The tractor is quite old,” Siverling said. “It had over 10,000 hours on it — in car terms, that’s like over 250,000 miles. And I always said, ‘That’s the tractor I’m going to restore someday, in honor of my grandfather.’”
While Siverling was deployed to the Sultanate of Oman, his father Steve coordinated with Justin to restore the tractor to show-quality condition.
“In truth, it should only be used for fairs and parades,” Siverling said.
The tractor was important to him for multiple reasons. A fifth-generation farmer, Siverling said his grandparents Mervin and Carol Rediger began with nothing and paid high interest rates for many years on 100-percent financed farm loans. Being able to afford to purchase a new 1971 John Deere 3020 was “a big step,” Siverling said.
But his grandfather also served on active duty as an Army public affairs specialist in the 1950s, and was proud when Siverling enlisted in a Wisconsin Army National Guard engineer unit in 2002. Later, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Rediger sold his farm, Rediger Rolling Acres, in 2008. Siverling and his family purchased most of Rediger’s farm equipment, including the John Deere tractor.
Rediger passed away in June 2018 while Siverling was deployed, coordinating security cooperation exercises in Oman. So seeing “that beautiful John Deere tractor that was my grandfather’s pride and joy” immaculately restored was quite meaningful for Siverling.
“I started crying pretty quickly,” he admitted. “It was a very touching moment.”
Siverling said he and his wife Vanessa will take ownership of Siverling Centennial Farms in a few weeks, and plan to transition the 300-acre property — along with another 150 acres they rent — to organic farming. While he was away, his brother and his father helped run the farm, and member of the community helped harvest his crops.
“They did it with nary a whine or anything else,” he said. “They just got it done, and my dad said, ‘hey, you’ve got to go serve. I’m proud of you. Go get after it, and the farm will still be here when you get back.’”
“Right now roughly half is certified organic, and the rest will be certified in 2021,” Siverling said. “I spent a good deal of my time overseas reading about organic farming, soil testing.”
Siverling applied the lessons of his grandparents’ hardships when he and his wife began the process of purchasing the family farm.
“I’ve known I wanted to farm my whole life, but my wife and I are dedicated to come into this as financially appropriate as possible,” he said. “When we purchase the farm we’ll have everything paid for but the land. You need to have a full-time job to make that happen.”
When not on the family farm and not at drill, Siverling works in scholarship enrollment for the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, River Falls, Stevens Point and Stout.
“Like a lot of Guard members, I have a lot of irons in the fire,” he acknowledged.
Siverling said the National Guard provides he and his wife with health insurance, he participates in the Thrift Savings Plan — a military 401K savings program — and intends to serve at least 20 years to be eligible for a military pension.
“For 17 years I’ve been saying I’m almost halfway there, so I’m almost halfway there,” he joked. “I love going to drill and seeing my friends and doing my mission one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer — maybe a meeting here and there. But I love the fact that most of the time I’m going to be out on that tractor, I’m going to be working on the farm, and if you need me, call me. I’ll be there as soon as I can.
“That level of service has been very rewarding and I wouldn’t change it,” Siverling continued. “For me, being in the Wisconsin National Guard has been a tremendous fit for my lifestyle, for what I wanted to do and what I hoped to achieve when I enlisted. I’m going to keep going as long as I’m making a positive impact, and as long as it’s still fun.”
In many ways, Siverling represents the quintessential image of a National Guardsman – the minuteman leaving the plow behind to pick up his musket. On several occasions, Siverling has dropped the plow and picked up the rifle to answer his nation’s or his state’s call to arms. But the National Guard can only be as successful as the foundation on which it lies – families, employers, and communities – as it fulfills its state and federal mission. Safe to say, Siverling represents the Citizen Soldier tradition, and has full support from his community, his family, and his employers.