April 20, 2024

Farm Bureau celebrates Earth Day

Protecting land for future generations of farmers

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Farm Bureau members celebrated Earth Day on April 20, acknowledging the importance of land and the measures farmers take to protect it.

“Farmers are the original stewards of the land,” said INFB President Randy Kron. “We protect the land because it has given so much to us, and we want it to be around for future generations.”

Farm Bureau spoke to Indiana farmers about their view of sustainability in agriculture and how they implement climate-friendly practices in their day-to-day work on the farm.

Sustainable Livestock

Jake Smoker, INFB member from LaPorte County, is a fourth-generation farmer producing corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as cattle. The farm has been in his family since 1944.

“Day to day, we look at the operation as a holistic approach,” Smoker said. “You need livestock to grow the row crop production and provide a nutrient cycle throughout the farming process. You can’t have one without the rest.

“Inputs and fertilizer are expensive. The more we can be good stewards by being prescriptive with manure and nutrient management, as well as using variable rate application, the more we are helping both the environment and our business.”

Managing Runoff

David McGaughey, INFB member from Putnam County, is a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer. The farm sits between two watersheds at the top of a hill, meaning the rolling property is prone to excessive runoff.

“Almost all of our farm is classified as highly erodible ground,” McGaughey said. “The bottom of the hill gets a lot of erosion anytime we have rain or snow melt. The water runs off and takes the soil with it, which is why we use grass waterways.”

McGaughey Farms has more than 100 acres of grass waterways designed to move water across fields and reduce the negative effects of flow on croplands.

This practice, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program, uses grass as a natural filter, trapping vital nutrients that would otherwise be washed away.

McGaughey also plants filter strips, 40- to 80-foot-wide grass sections, which run alongside creeks and naturally collect the eroded soil from getting into the waterways, causing contamination. McGaughey also practices no-till and plants cover crops.

“These conservation practices have been a big part of the operation over the past 10 to 20 years, and we have increased profitability because of it,” he said. “I’d like to leave the ground better than it was when we got it for whoever has it next.”

No-Till

Nick Wenning, Decatur County Farm Bureau president, is no stranger to conservation and sustainability on his row crop farm. His family farm produces corn, soybeans and wheat.

The farm has been 100% no-tillage for over 20 years, meaning they never till or plow the soil so nutrients stay locked in. No-till farming decreases the amount of soil erosion tillage causes in certain soils.

Wenning also plants cover crops to replenish nutrients and hold down topsoil.

“We use variable rate technology to make sure we don’t over-apply fertilizer. But if we do, that is the beauty of cover crops — they will absorb the fertilizer to eliminate any chance of runoff into waterways,” he said.

“By doing right by the ground, I get better crops. I get phenomenal yields for what I farm.”

Sustainable Forestry

Jeff Page, INFB member from Johnson County, is a forester and timber buyer with Tri-State Timber in southern Indiana. He works with landowners and mill owners to procure, assess and harvest timber.

“Trees are truly a naturally renewable resource,” Page said. “When actively managing woods, we use activities such as invasive species control, crop tree release and, most common, timber harvest.

“Active forest management maintains healthy vigorous woods and provides many tangible wood products, as well as other benefits such as carbon sequestration, disease removal, wildlife habitat and improved water quality.

“Timber harvests provide a great product that filters into our state economy, yet the woods remain, regenerate and continue to grow again for future generations. To thrive in this industry, you have to think about what you are leaving for the next generation and be committed to stewardship.”

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor