Tag Archives: cover crops

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

Sustainability Key To Nearly 100 Years of Family Farming

Growing up on the farm, Matt Bainbridge’s favorite memories were riding along in the fields with his dad and grandpa, and wondering when he would be big enough to drive the tractor himself. Now, with hundreds of hours in the cab and a young son to join him in the buddy seat, Matt is grateful his family is working together to create a sustainable future for their farm.

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

 

The Bainbridge family has been growing soybeans, corn, alfalfa and raising cattle near Ethan, South Dakota, for almost 100 years. Their recipe for long-term success requires everyone to do their part. Matt and his brother, Neal, run the cattle operation and manage the crops. Their dad, Lewis, helps out with finances, crop insurance and running errands. Wives Sari, Tara and Charlene move cattle, cook meals and transfer equipment.

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

 

Their drive to improve the land for future generations is no different. They contribute new ideas and adopt farm practices so their children have the opportunity to grow and raise food one day.

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

 

It started more than 25 years ago when Lewis stopped tilling the soil. Leaving the stalks and roots from crops in the fields is a practice called no-till that’s used by conventional and organic farmers. It’s a natural way to protect the soil from erosion and feed it with organic matter that supports healthy crops.

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

 

“We feel it’s important to keep the soil covered to prevent erosion. We continue to try new techniques with soil fertility and rotating different crops to help control weeds, diseases and insects,” said Matt. Planting GMO seeds and using precision technology in their tractors, planter and sprayer also help them protect crops efficiently and sustainably.

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

 

With technology and soil mapping, they can treat fields the size of football fields like they’re backyard gardens, applying the right amount of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides needed to grow healthy plants. The science inside GMO seeds helps defend them against weeds, pests and extreme weather. Having all these tools at their fingertips helps the family manage difficult times.

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

 

“This year has been a challenge. We had a wet spring that made calving and planting difficult,” explained Matt. “However, we were fortunate to continue getting rain all summer and were rewarded with an excellent, healthy crop.”

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

 

Looking toward the future, Matt and Neal are considering more changes to keep their environmental sustainability growing. They recently planted a new variety of soybean that allows them to use different types of products to control weeds. They’re also looking into expanding their cattle herd, which could add new crops the mix and a more abundant supply of manure.

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

 

“Farming changes so quickly that it’s hard to predict what it will look like in 20 years, but I believe family farms will always be part of safely growing food,” said Matt. “As a new dad, I hope my son has the same opportunities I have had. Our land and water need to be in excellent condition for our farm to be successful.”

 

Hungry for Truth Bainbridge Family Farm South Dakota Sustainability

Did you know South Dakota farmers lead the nation in farmland enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program? Grow your knowledge with these local farm sustainability facts.

Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.

Hungry for Truth Steps to Growing Healthy Crops

Five Steps for Growing a Healthy Crop

Fall is a busy time for many reasons: school commitments, community events, team sports. But for farmers, it’s all about harvest. They’ve planned, prepared and monitored their fields since early spring, and now it all comes down to these last couple months. After all, they only get about 50 chances throughout their career to grow a successful crop, so they want to get it right each time.

But what does it take to reach harvest time? Let’s take a peek.

 

Hungry for Truth Steps to Growing Healthy Crops

Preparing Fields

Growing acres of healthy crops requires a lot of advanced planning. Farmers start making decisions for planting in the fall by selecting the right seeds and preplant strategies for their farm. Adverse conditions like cold temps, pests and competitive weeds can challenge young seed growth so farmers get their fields in tip-top shape to minimize those obstacles.

They often use sustainable strategies like soil sampling and cover crops to protect the fields during winter, capture nutrients and preserve the land. Many farmers also choose to plant GMO seeds, which are created with the right genetics to defend against weather conditions and potentially reduce the need for insecticides.

 

Hungry for Truth Steps to Growing Healthy Crops

Monitoring Crops

Today’s farmers are grounded in science and data. They know their fields better than ever. Once seedlings emerge, farmers use precision technology to monitor each acre and keep an eye on how their crops are doing. If the plants are low in nutrients or facing pressure from pests or weeds, they can deliver the right product, where it’s needed in precisely the right amount to reduce waste.

 

Hungry for Truth Steps to Growing Healthy Crops

Adapting to Conditions

While advancements in technology have boosted farmers’ accuracy and access to data, nothing is guaranteed in farming. There are many variables that require farmers to adjust their plans on a dime. For example, the best time to safely spray pesticides is when it’s dry, the forecast is clear, temperatures are moderate and wind speeds are low. If a product is needed, but the conditions aren’t right, farmers adjust their strategy.

 

Hungry for Truth Steps to Growing Healthy Crops

Timing Harvest

As leaves change color in the fall, soybean fields transform as well, changing from green to a light golden brown. During this time, farmers watch their crops closely to determine the right time for harvest. If soybeans are harvested when they’re too wet, the combine struggles to process them, and they don’t store well. On the other hand, if they’re harvested when it’s too dry, the brittle beans can shatter, resulting in crop loss. Farmers must balance time, weather and moisture when choosing the most optimal time.

 

Hungry for Truth Steps to Growing Healthy Crops

Improving for the Future

Shortly after harvest is complete, farmers get right back to work planning for the next season. With in-depth data and observations, they improve their strategy to grow healthier crops more efficiently and sustainably for the next year.

Wonder what harvest is like from a farmer’s perspective? Find out from David and Miriam Iverson and learn more about the steps farmers take throughout the year to ensure a successful crop.

Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

The Sustainability Story of a Five-Generation Farm

Since 1896, David Struck’s family has been farming and caring for their land in Wolsey, South Dakota. Today, three generations of the family work together to grow soybeans, corn and wheat. While their roots run deep in the Beadle County soil, the family has adopted new technology over the years, allowing them to become more efficient and sustainable.

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

 

For South Dakota soybean farmers, sustainability means doing what’s best for the environment and continuously improving the land for future generations. 

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

David has played an active role in implementing new strategies to farm smarter, faster and more efficiently along the way. His son, Brady, is the fifth generation to be actively involved and brings a fresh perspective to the farm as a recent graduate of Lake Area Technical Institute.

 

“We do more in an hour than my grandpa did in a season, and we do more in a day than my dad did in a season when he started farming,” said David. “It’s almost hard to fathom, looking back and seeing how far farming has come.”

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

 

For example, GPS technology completely changed the game for the Strucks, allowing them to farm with precision. Flat rate application of pesticides and fertilizers is a thing of the past on this farm. Instead, they tailor how much they apply as they move throughout their fields to make sure they use the exact amount needed. GPS technology has also saved them time and labor.

 

“We used to have two guys constantly circling the farm in pick-ups to monitor irrigation systems and look for anything that could be wrong,” said David. “Now, with GPS, we can monitor them from the office.”

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

 

The Struck family also plants cover crops to protect their land. This emerging trend allows farmers to manage nutrients and weeds by planting crops like rye, barley or even radishes and turnips, to capture nutrients and moisture, and to keep the soil in place.

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

 

The Strucks also use no-till farming, which means they don’t disrupt the soil by plowing between plantings. Instead, they leave the stalks and roots where they are after harvest, and the leftover organic matter sticks around to enrich the soil and help retain moisture. Capturing as much water as possible is important to the Strucks since they farm in a dry region.  

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

 

Speaking of moisture, they even use special irrigation technology called drop nozzles to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. In fact, their evaporation rate is less than a third of what it was 30 years ago.

These strategies may not have been used by David’s great-grandpa when the farm was established, but by embracing change and innovation, the family has grown safe and healthy crops for more than 120 years.

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

 

“There’s a perception that we’re running big corporate farms out here, that don’t care about the environment or about people, but that’s very untrue,” said David. “There are some big farms, but they’re still family farms with multiple generations involved in every one of them.”

In South Dakota, 98 percent of farms are family owned, and over 2,500 of those have been in the same family for more than a century. While the Strucks have expanded their farm throughout the years, it has always remained a family affair.  

 

Sustainability is key for South Dakota farmer and Hungry for Truth advocate David Struck.

 

“We’re very family oriented out here,” said David. “Are we big? Yes. It’s different than it was 100 years ago, but we’re still family farms, not giant, faceless corporations.”

 

Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.

 

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Sustainability is a Growing Trend on South Dakota Family Farms

Sustainability is a trending topic among South Dakota farmers and families. Farmers want to take care of the soil and water for future generations, and consumers want to know the food they’re eating is grown and raised with the environment in mind.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Morgan and Jason Kontz are no exception. Jason is the fourth generation in his family to grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and raise beef cattle near Colman. Morgan recently added a few free-range chickens to the mix.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Keeping up with the demands of the animals, crops and two young kiddos can be challenging, but they make time to explore new opportunities to enhance sustainability on the farm.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

“We feel very privileged to have a role in growing safe and nutritious food for families. We’re making decisions today we hope translate to better soil and healthier crops and animals so our children have an opportunity to farm in the future,” said Morgan.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

For example, they use no-till for growing all crops. No-till is just like it sounds: not tilling the field after harvest. By leaving plant stalks and roots in the ground, they keep the soil in place and enrich it with organic content and beneficial bugs. Over time, healthier soil translates to nutritious and productive crops.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Another way to improve soil health is through cover crops. These are crops planted before or after harvest that can increase organic matter and fertility, reduce erosion, improve soil structure and limit pest and disease issues. Morgan and Jason are planning to start using cover crops this fall. First, they need to test the soil to determine the right mix for their fields.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Their commitment to doing the right thing for the environment extends to the cattle barn. The deep-pit beef barn safely collects manure from cows in a large pit through grates in the floor. Then they apply the manure to their fields using a tanker truck and a drip line. Precision technology allows them to apply the right amount of fertilizer per crop, per acre.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

According to Morgan, this is a perfect example of sustainability and recycling because they’re using waste to precisely fuel plant productivity.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

“We want to be able to come full circle on our farm. We like that we can apply manure to feed our crops and then we use those crops to feed our cattle,” she explained. “Sustainability is more than a trend on our farm. It’s something we plan to continue growing for the future.”

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Did you know that when it comes to being environmentally friendly, the size of the farm doesn’t matter? Test your knowledge with this blog on the truth behind five sustainability myths.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food. 

 

Hungry for Truth BJ Hansen Beef Farm

Diversity Drives Sustainability on Hansen Family Farm

For South Dakota soybean farmers, sustainability means doing the right thing for the environment and continuously improving the land for future generations. BJ Hansen is no exception. On his farm near Turton, diversity is also key to building a sustainable future for their farm.

Hungry for Truth BJ Hansen Beef Farm Hungry for Truth BJ Hansen Beef Farm

BJ is the third generation to join the business and works with his father and uncle to grow a variety of crops, including soybeans, corn, sunflowers, wheat and alfalfa. They use some of those crops to feed a herd of purebred Charolais beef cows, which he brought to the farm when he moved home. He uses embryo transplant technology to breed the Charolais and sell them as seed stock to other farmers and kids in programs like 4H.

Adding cattle to the mix brought a new level of diversity to the farm that allowed them to increase value without growing in size.

Hungry for Truth BJ Hansen Beef Farm

“My dad and uncle take care of the fields, and I manage the cows. Adding cattle to the farm is how I was able to come back and build a life for my wife and children,” explained BJ. “We probably won’t grow our farm by purchasing more land, so we have to find ways we can do more with what we have to grow healthy food.”

Hungry for Truth BJ Hansen Beef Farm

In addition to the cattle, they’ve also seen an uptick in wildlife thanks to the 60-foot grass waterway strips they installed along the creeks in their fields. Grass waterway or buffer strips are a conservation practice used by farmers to help filter rain as it runs off the field and into water. They are also great nesting ground for pheasants, ducks and other birds, which supports BJ’s outdoor adventures.

While he enjoys seeing the diversity their practices bring to the fields, he’s even more impressed with how efficient they’ve become. The cattle manure is recycled by spreading it on the fields to nourish crops and the soil. They’ve also stopped tilling the ground and started using cover crops to limit erosion and control weeds. Precision technology helps them apply just the right amount of pesticides when needed and plant the right amount of perfectly-spaced seeds per acre.

“We used to do a lot of tillage when I was growing up. Then in the 1990s my dad decided to stop and just leave the crop stalks and roots in place. With no-till, our soil has become so much healthier,” explained BJ. “We’ve continued to add conservation practices and technology to our farm and are seeing great results.”

The best part of all is that by focusing on sustainability through diversity, BJ’s kids may have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

Hungry for Truth BJ Hansen Beef Farm

“Sustainability is helping us get the most out of what we already have and make improvements for the future,” said BJ. “Someday I want my children to have the opportunity to join me on the farm and continue the tradition of growing safe and healthy food.”

Hungry for Truth BJ Hansen Beef Farm

Did you know South Dakota farmers are so committed to conservation that it’s the top state in the nation for enrollment in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program? Read this blog to learn more.

Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.

 

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Cover Crops Boost Sustainability on the Johnson Family Farm

Jamie Johnson doesn’t like to use the word sustainable to describe her family farm because taking care of the soil is just part of doing business. Like many South Dakota farm families, Jamie and her husband, Brian, are committed to using environmentally friendly practices like rotating crops, practicing no till and planting cover crops. They know the choices they make today have a big impact on the future of their farm and neighbors.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

“It’s important to me to use the best practices for our kids and the families who depend on us for food,” said Jamie. “Healthy food comes from healthy soils. We can’t deplete our resources if we want our children to continue eating safe and healthy food.”

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Jamie grew up on a ranch in Nebraska raising Angus cattle. She met Brian during a college internship, and they were a perfect fit. Soon, she found herself moving to Frankfort, South Dakota, to join Brian and his parents – Alan and Mickie – on their family farm. After 12 years of marriage and four kids, they are the fourth generation to take on the daily duties of running the farm.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

This includes growing soybeans, corn and wheat, expanding their herd of Angus cattle and keeping their four chickens happy and healthy. Thanks to Brian’s parents who began practicing no till in the 1980s, the Johnsons had a sustainable foundation when they began experimenting with cover crops.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

“We’re the experimental farmers you hear about who aren’t afraid to try new things,” said Jamie. “I believe in lifelong learning, embracing new practices and being open to change. Nothing stands still in farming so we have to be good at adapting.”

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

For the past eight years, those experiments have yielded good crops and healthier soils. They even use cover crops to feed their cattle for part of the year to give the pastures a rest.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

“We use two types of mixes for our cover crops. One is for grazing and includes radishes, turnips, millet, and sorghum sudangrass. Our cattle eat it, and it’s also good for the soil,” said Jamie. “The other mix includes radishes, vetch, and lentils. We plant it in rows with our planter after harvesting wheat. The precise placement of our cover crop in rows is a great way to prepare the soil for planting corn the next growing season.”

They typically plant the cover crops in early August and let them grow throughout the fall until they freeze.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Sustainable practices also help the Johnsons reduce their use of pesticides.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops grain bins

“We do still spray to control weeds and insects, but we noticed that the more we keep our ground covered, the less issues we have. We only spray when necessary and are careful to use just the right amount,” she said.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops
hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Spending a little less time in the field means more time for the other chores that pop up. According to Jamie, there’s always something to do, but the work is her favorite part of farm life.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

“I know it sounds strange, but I love the work,” said Jamie. “I love that we all do it together as a family. We all want to be here raising cattle, producing healthy crops, and working together. No matter the season, there’s always something to look forward to.”

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Did you know South Dakota farmers and ranchers lead the nation in enrollment in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program? Read about their efforts and dig into the sustainable practices Jamie uses on her family farm.

Sustainability Grows Strong on South Dakota Farms and Ranches

Did you know South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are some of the most proactive in the nation when it comes to on-farm sustainability? South Dakota leads the U.S. with 7 million acres of farmland enrolled in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). That’s 1 million more acres than any other state.

Sustainability grows strong in South Dakota, which is good for farmers and families. According to information collected through CSP during the past five years, farmers and ranchers adopted environmentally friendly practices that reduced pesticide drift on 1.7 million acres, increased the use of no-till farming on 1.5 million acres and grew cover crop acres on a total of 300,000 acres.

Crop rotation, no-till farming and cover crops are a few of the top techniques used by farmers to improve productivity and grow and raise healthy food. Let’s learn more.

Crop Rotation

Farmers plant different crops on different acres each season to avoid depleting the soil of nutrients. Crop rotation also helps control weeds, diseases and pests. By planting soybeans one year and corn the next, farmers use less pesticides and replenish their soils.

No-Till Farming

No till is a form of conservation tillage that allows farmers to grow crops or pasture without disturbing the soil by plowing. Farmers plant the crop, harvest it and leave the stalks and roots in place through the winter months. The next season, they plant a new crop in the same field. The stalks and roots feed worms and beneficial bugs, which enrich the soil. Keeping the ground covered also reduces erosion from wind and rain, and limits weed growth.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are seeded after harvesting and before planting. They help prevent soil erosion, keep weeds from growing and provide beneficial nutrients to help other crops grow. Some types of cover crops are radishes, alfalfa, red clover and rye grass. Farmers can plant cover crops using a planter, drill or by flying over the fields with an airplane.

These are just some of the ways farmers protect and preserve the land for the next generation. Find out how Paul Casper uses sustainable practices to support outdoor adventures on his farm.