Indianapolis -- The Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI) announces 12 Indiana hub farmers who will play key roles in the CCSI's three-year USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant.
The individuals were nominated by CCSI partners including the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Soybean Alliance, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), and the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service. Nominations were based on the farmer's experience with on-farm research, conservation cropping systems, hosting field days, and delivering presentations.
|The 12 hub farmer locations are indicated on the map with a green triangle.
According to Lisa Holscher, CCSI soil health program manager, "The 12 farmers will host demonstration sites on their farms in conjunction with the regional hubs, comparing their current conservation systems with programs that introduce new practices. The impacts of the new practices on soil health and an array of other variables will be measured and documented, and comparisons made within fields on the same or nearby farms. They also will serve as mentors to producers interested in adopting new conservation tactics."
Over the next three years, each of the 12 hub farmers will put out replicated strip trials involving cropping systems that can lead to improved soil health. The strip trials will quantify the impacts of cover crops, no-till/strip till, and crop rotation systems on soil chemical, physical, and biological properties and their relationships with nutrient cycling, soil water availability and crop growth.
According to Jordan Seger, ISDA's program manager for ag and environmental affairs, conservation partnership staff and volunteers have helped lay out the sites and are pulling samples from the strip trials. "Samples include basic soil fertility, soil moisture, soil nitrate, soil temperature, cover crop biomass, and new soil health tests. Test results will be compiled and analyzed by Purdue University."
Each farmer will host one regional field day or workshop per year. Hub planning teams, including the farmers, have come up with topics from "Use of Cover Crops for Weed and Pest Management" to "What, When, Why, and How to Pull Samples" to "Equipment Modifications and Management for a Conservation Cropping System." Targeted audiences include farmers, agriculture industry professionals, and conservation partnership staff.
The hub farmers also are involved in the CCSI Mentoring Program designed to put producers in touch with mentors and/or consultants for individual technical assistance to help implement practices recognized as beneficial through CCSI. Some are working one-on-one with farmers, but most are fielding questions at workshops or giving presentations/demonstrations.
The 12 Hub farmers for the project are:
Note: higher resolution photos of each farmer are available by clicking on each photo.
Marshall Alford, Dearborn County, is a lifelong farmer who started no-tilling in 1985. He is a supervisor for the Dearborn County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). The soybean, corn and wheat farmer has used cover crops for over 20 years. He also utilizes grassed waterways, filter strips, grid soil sampling and nutrient and pest management into his conservation arsenal. This helps to control erosion and water runoff on all of his farms. Alford also hosts no-till and cover crops field days for the SWCD. Alford believes these field days are excellent resources for farmers to see first hand the results of this conservation management tool. He also attends the National No-till Conference. Alford received the River Friendly Farmer award in 2007 for his conservation activities.
Mike Brocksmith, Knox County, raises corn, wheat,
and soybeans with his wife, Susan, and their two daughters. The farm no-tilled corn for the first time in 1978, and has been 100 percent no-till since 1990. Brocksmith is a past member and chairman of the Knox County SWCD board. The farm has hosted numerous soil judging contests and conservation field days, as well as many other rural and urban events. He feels cover crops and soil health synergies are the missing link in protecting, rebuilding, and enhancing his soil resources.
Dan DeSutter, Fountain County, returned to his family farm after earning a degree and pursuing graduate studies in finance at Indiana University, then working as a financial analyst and commodity broker. He farms full-time, raising crops and grass-fed beef, and remains an active spokesman and advocate for conservation agriculture. For the past decade, he has also been a leader in cover cropping, planting 2,000 to 2,500 acres of cover crops annually as part of the approach he calls "bio-till" to emphasize his commitment to a healthy soil ecosystem. He has hosted a Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) Conservation In Action Tour on his 4,300-acre operation, much of which he has no-tilled for 20 years.
Larry Huffmeyer, Ripley County, started farming in 1974 after graduating from Purdue University. He purchased a no-till planter then and started with no-till double crop soybeans. He later rented no-till drills to expand soybean production. He also utilized cover crops in the early years. No-till corn has been more challenging due to wet soils. Early season burn down and some vertical tillage have improved results. The family has installed waterways since the 70's. No-till and minimum till has allowed many of these practices to remain effective today. Larry, Charlene and their two children currently raise corn, soybeans and wheat on 1,300 acres. They have been using various cover crop mixes extensively for the last four years.
Cameron Mills, Cass County, has spent his entire life on the farm. When his father decided to move out of the farming business in 1998, Cameron took over and grew the business from 600 to the 3,500 acres they currently manage. He and his wife, Cara, and have been married for 12 years and have four children. They started no-tilling in 2000 because of the economics involved in an ever-expanding farm operation. After being introduced to cover crops at the No-Till Conference in 2005, they began implementing the practice and have expanded their acreage each year since then.
Ken, Roy and Rodney Rulon.
Rodney Rulon, Hamilton County, is a partner with his cousins, Ken and Roy in Rulon Enterprises. As a fourth generation family farm in Arcadia, the Rulons have a strong focus on sustainability. Because of this, Rulon Enterprises has been recognized with numerous honors including the No-Till Innovator Award, regional and national Conservation Legacy Award, and they served as hosts for the CTIC Conservation in Action Tour in 2009. Rodney Rulon received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Purdue University in Agricultural Systems Management using the degree as the farm's technology and resource manager. Rulon works very hard on their farm and as the chairman for the Hamilton County SWCD to promote the benefits and adoption of no-till and cover crops throughout Indiana.
Jamie Scott, Kosciusko County, has been a supervisor for the Kosciusko County SWCD for seven years and chairman for the last three. He currently serves the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD) as secretary. Scott is part of a family farm operation consisting of about 2,000 acres. The family has implemented many conservation practices and earned recognition as the IASWCD Conservation Farmer of the Year and both regional and national Conservationist of the Year awards from the American Soybean Association. The operation was an early adopter of conservation tillage. Now all tillable acres are no-tilled or strip tilled. A spring workshop and field demonstration on cover crops has been held for the last three years. They have coordinated cover crop aerial seedings in an eight-county area for the last three years resulting in 16,000 planted acres.
Mike Shuter, Madison County, is a corn, soybean, beef cattle and hog producer. He and his sons, Patrick and Brian, have been no-tilling for 30 years, strip-tilling for 10 years and have been using variable rate technology as long as it has been available. For the last five years they have been researching cover crops and how to integrate them into their operation. In 2010 they started developing a high clearance seeding machine to seed cover crops in standing corn and soybeans to get these crops off to a faster, earlier start. All of their crop fields were seeded to cover crops starting in the fall of 2012. Shuter is a past president of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council.
Kurt Stahl, Vanderburgh County, is part of Stahl Farms, a fifth generation grain farm. Along with his father, Manfred, he works with his cousin, Brad and Brad's father, Alan. They also have farms in Warrick and Spencer counties. They raise corn, soybeans and wheat and have been no-till farming since the 1960's. Kurt is a graduate of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business where he earned a degree in finance, and began working for Abbott Laboratories, a global healthcare company. In 1997, Kurt returned home to be involved in the farm part-time. In 2001, Kurt had the opportunity to begin farming full-time. Kurt and his wife, Chanca, have three children.
Don Villwock, Knox County, is a no-till farmer in southwest Indiana. His farming operation produces white corn, soybeans, seed soybeans and seed wheat. Villwock's 4,000 acre farm is scattered over 40 miles. The former SWCD supervisor's focus has been to protect his soil from erosion, improve water quality and soil health, reduce costs and increase yields. Villwock has served as president of Indiana Farm Bureau and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance since January 2002. He is graduate of Purdue University with a degree in agricultural economics. He began by no-tilling double crop soybeans into wheat stubble in the late 1970s. He then no-tilled soybeans into corn stalks in the early '80s, and started planting corn into soybean stubble in the mid-'80s. By 1990 he modified his corn planter and was planting corn into corn stalks. He has been 100 percent no-till ever since. Villwock has won or been a top three finisher in the National Corn Yield contest on several occasions in the no-till division. Even though he has been using wheat for a cover crop on his most erosive soils for over 20 years, he is now experimenting with a variety of cover crop options to sequester nutrients and to improve soil health. He and his wife, Joyce, have two daughters.
, Decatur County, serves as secretary to the Decatur County SWCD
board. He currently owns and operates 600 acres. Wenning feels that God gave us soil and we need to keep it where He put it. He has worked with area landowners encouraging conservation practices to benefit land, water and wildlife now and for the future. In 2006 he was recognized as Conservation Farmer of the Year in Decatur County. In 2007 he received the Indiana River Friendly Farmer award. Most recently Wenning was recognized as the 2011 IASWCD Indiana Supervisor of the Year, and one of the five state Conservation Farmer of Year award winners. He was honored with the American Soybean Association North-East Region Conservation Legacy Award in 2012. He also owns and operates Wenning Excavating and Drainage. He and his wife, Mary Beth, have four children and four grandchildren.
Mike Werling, Adams County, is a multi-generation farmer on his grain operation. The farm is located six miles northwest of Decatur. He uses a three-year rotation following corn with soybeans then wheat or oats. He practices no-till and uses cover crops because he doesn't like soil erosion. It pays off because he was a 2012 winner of the River Friendly Farmer of the Year Award for his conservation efforts. The biggest benefit from his no-till / cover crop mix has been an increase in organic matter in the soil, and improvement in soil life and health. Mike says healthy soil has better water infiltration, less run off, and he uses less fertilizer, and sees better yields. Werling has plans for test plots to measure the value of no-till, conservation tillage and cover crops. The on-farm research is exciting because "that's real life. These are practices that could be used on a larger scale."
"No one can say exactly what the future holds - whether we're talking about a changing climate or the need to feed the exploding world population," says Holscher. "We can say that with the announcement of our 12 hub farmers, development of our regional hubs, mentoring program, and on-farm Research, CCSI is poised to help Indiana growers and our conservation partners meet it (the future) head on."
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