Robert raises organic beef on organic pastures and also farms 600 acres of corn and soybeans with his father. Most of his cropped acres are under minimum tillage which he defines as one-pass field cultivation prior to planting. Although Robert has farmed for 30 years, he has only been certified organic within the last five years. In switching to organic, the greatest challenge was figuring out his income during the three years of transition.
“I am doing organic on some of my corn acres and all of my pastures,” Robert said. “Even though I till the soil, I have good soil health because I don’t use any chemicals and I leave a lot of residue on the ground.”
Robert is satisfied with the balance he has established between his organic operation and his conventional operation. Instead of going to a no-tillage system, he has constructed grass waterways, terraces and stream buffers. This has allowed him to reduce the amount of chemicals being used. Most of the stream on his property is buffered by organic pasture and recently he planted nearly 2,000 trees providing windbreaks and shelterbelts.
Building a Culture of Conservation
“We control erosion by using terraces. If terraces can’t fix it, you probably shouldn’t have row crops on it. My father’s farm (that isn’t organic) has a lot of terraces and very little water run-off.”