We are not an ordinary farm.
I write this because we have always chosen to do some things different than our neighboring farms. In fact, all farms have different styles. This is not meant to be disrespectful of others. There are operations near us that we have great respect for. Like any business, we observe what others are doing, perform our own due diligence and make decisions that are important for the operation’s future. Achieving proper “scale” is critical in any business, and our operation constantly is trying to become more efficient.
One of those notable decisions that is easily observed is to improve soil health through cover crops, strip till, and no-till. Our soil is our factory, and we want to improve it. Today’s modern machinery allow us to plant into conditions unthought of twenty years ago. Healthy soil practices of generations past include cultivation of numerus crops through multi-year rotations. Today’s economy doesn’t allow for expensive land to be idled, so the next best thing is to try to keep something (different) growing on our land for as long as Mother Nature allows. We are early adopters of this method and have witnessed very good results.
An unhealthy practice, in our opinion, has been moldboard plowing and too much tillage in general. These practices advanced with improved machinery over the last few generations. They were adopted for two good reasons, weed control and the planting of the seed into a good seedbed. As noted earlier, we now have planters and products that allow us to overcome these issues.
We are also not ordinary because we have outside income that supports our families. People often wonder why I have a “day job.” My answer is this question, “Do you know how much good health insurance costs?” Austin is an entrepreneur who has a successful business. Our farm has a small trucking operation embedded. This outside activity complements, enhances, and helps to insulate the family farm from “the bad stuff” that we may encounter – poor weather and crops, low prices, expensive inputs and whatever else that gets thrown in front of us in farm life.
About fifteen years ago, I met with a respected Purdue Ag Economist to get his opinion on what he thought a modern midwestern grain farm should / would look like. His answer was “What you are doing now.” Anything called “modern” today, ages quickly. So, we must continue to be the new modern farm of tomorrow, always adapting, always changing for the good.
- Monty Henderson