When I was younger, I got a smallpox vaccination. By the time I had children, they did not need to get one due to advancements in science and technology. As a farmer I know there have also been many advancements in agriculture that have made what we do better for the earth and the people who call this place home.
On our family farm in Winneshiek County, I do not farm the same way my grandfather and father farmed. My grandfather plowed the soil with horses and my father with his Farmall 400. Today, and for the past 20-plus years, I have not been tilling the soil which helps reduce soil loss into our waterways. In the last few years, I have also been using cover crops to hold nutrients and soil in place over the winter and spring. Not only does this help water quality, my soils are much healthier today than when my ancestors were using tillage.
Today, we know that using no-till and cover crops improves soil health. In simple terms, this means that when it rains, water goes into my soil instead of running off and polluting the streams and rivers; and the organic matter, bacteria, and fungi in the soil filter excess nutrients.
In honor of National Ag Week, I would encourage other farmers to try using no till and cover crops.