Growing up on a farm near Kerkhoven, Minnesota, a beautiful field was a field of pure black soil next to the bright green corn stalks. But today, as an agronomist and a farmer, my perspective has started to change as I’ve learned more about soil health and potential practice changes that can have lasting benefits for our family’s farm.
When it came to reduced tillage on our acres, we approached it like any other change on our farm: with a test-and-learn mindset. This regenerative journey has been just that – a journey – and I’d suggest that farmers interested in adopting some of these practices consider it as a journey over seasons.
We have such short planting and harvest windows here in Minnesota that many people feel like things such as cover crops and strip tilling either aren’t worth it, or aren’t possible. But we started to wonder: what if we could make it work? With the right approaches and motivation, I think practices that can enrich the soil and help our acres get more resilient are achievable for even us in the northern states.
For H&G Farms, it all started with a sense of curiosity. Myself, my wife, and our three daughters are all naturally curious people, so we decided to give it a try. We decided to ease into things, so we developed a 3 to 5 year plan to introduce our farm to strip tilling. In our first year we had three strip till fields, following soybeans and going into corn. We had two comparisons of conventional versus strip tillage to see if we got the same yields. The next year, we were able to do soybeans going into corn stalks, and the year after that we introduced sugar beets and corn-on-corn.