The first I heard of Sustainable Agriculture was in Robert Rodale’s New Farm magazine in the 70′s. It made sense as our farm practiced similar methods to the ones he described since grandpa moved his family the home farm in 1918.
The farm consisted of a 5-year crop rotation, limited plowing, and raising enough livestock to consume all of the production of the 300-acre general farm. The manure was spread back on the soil and cultivation was kept to a minimum to protect the nearly and highly erodible soils on the farm.
This worked well until the agricultural crises kept building momentum in each decadal cycle and the wheat price couldn’t be fed or sold at a profit nor the livestock or products you fed it to. There was no room on the farm for a third-generation so I was sent to college to make my own life.
I taught vocational agriculture and became an extension agent in 16 years. By then the sustainability movement was growing and agents visited Rodale’s Farm and taught the principals to those who were interested. Most of agriculture went to specialized production instead and cash grain farming, confinement hog and poultry production instead. Beef, dairy and lamb remained pretty much the sustainable way but dairy soon joined specialization.
The essence of sustainability to me is leaving the place better than you found it. I taught in my classrooms the principle of healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy livestock, and healthy humans; the chain is connected. Rodale and Albrecht’s teachings helped me learn these principles and teach them to others.
My mentor Paul Reed, Washington, Iowa teaches “speak with your fields.” Farmers will ask you how you did that. My crops right now are speaking volumes through this record drought. I attribute this to the sustainable practices of reduced tillage, balanced fertility, crop rotation and careful management.
I do this profitably by farming with used AGCO machinery and preventive maintenance. AGCO is usually the best buy in the marketplace new or used and lasts a long time; we still use 50 and 60-year old equipment. I have taught reduced tillage to thousands of other farmers across this country and beyond. The White Planters 5100 no tillage planter is the best one ever built in my mind. And the farmer designed Gleaner combine is easy to maintain.
I keep my cost of production low using these methods while yielding beyond my county average. The best part is my soil doesn’t wash away and gets more productive each year. Cover crops is an exciting new part of our crop rotation.
Sustainable Agriculture is a must for my grand children and just makes good common sense. AGCOhelps keep me farming sustainably.
Debra shared with us how she has been implementing sustainable agriculture practices in her farm operations. What are some of things you’re thinking about, or have had success with?
This fall will be my second harvest since I started calling myself a farmer. And the third season since I started making management decisions on the farm. There is certainly no amount of education that can prepare you for the complexities of farming. In 2010, mere months after unexpectedly losing my father, I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture; majoring in Crop Science. Even with a degree as relevant as that, I still feel entirely lost in our operation.
In the last few years we have tried our best to continue to enhance the sustainability of our farm. We have implemented a flexible crop rotation to decrease pest and disease incidence and better utilize the soil through diversity in crop types and seeding dates. We started soil sampling to better understand the nutrient deficiencies of our fields. We have also made crop checking more of a priority so we can detect pests early and utilize chemical rotation strategies to reduce the chance of resistant populations. It may be a few modest steps toward sustainability, but they have been difficult, yet worthwhile steps up a steep learning curve for our family.
Sustainable agriculture is the key to a very challenging future for our world. If farmers are having a hard time transitioning to management practices entirely different than they are accustomed to, I encourage them to start small. Although these are modest steps, they are to a view that is entirely worth the effort.
As preserving water and improving soil becomes increasingly vital, the pre-launch meeting of the Soil and Water Management Centre in the UK supported by Challenger marked an important development for farmers.
Created in response to a report on the current status of soil and water management, the Centre, based at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire in the English Midlands, aims to provide ‘sustainable improvements’ in farming and ecosystem efficiency through better knowledge co-ordination, transfer and development.
Challenger has committed to backing the Centre for three years and will be involved in knowledge transfer days, ongoing research and extensive educational programmes for farmers and agronomists.
“Challenger’s mission statement: ‘Your Soil, Our Territory’ fits particularly well with the project,” explained Martin Hamer, Challenger Manager National Sales, UK. “Our tracked machines are already helping farmers to look after their most valuable resources – the land.”
On Show at the event was a TerraGator 2104 applicator. “Farmers and contractors are looking towards more efficient and soil-friendly methods of applying liquid slurry and other nutrient-rich by-products, and the TerraGator is an ideal method of achieving this,” said Martin. Visitors were interested to hear about how features like the dogwalk steering system could efficiently spread large load weights over the whole width of the machine, rather than distribution only in the tramlines.
When looking to build a better future for our world, it is only practical that we consider our world’s youth. Plain and simple, the youth of the world are the world’s future. In December of 1999, the United Nations officially declared August 12th as International Youth Day(IYD).
IYD seeks to highlight good practices in developing and expanding successful partnerships with people. This year’s theme is “Building a better world—partnering with our youth.” The UN is encouraging organizations to form partnerships with the youth. Some encouraged areas of partnership are employment, education, and entrepreneurship.
This summer, I was given an opportunity to intern with AGCO from May to early August.
As my final week as an intern comes to a close, I have had some time to look back on my experience with the internship program. In doing this, I have been able to reflect upon what the program meant to myself and the other interns. Whether it is your first time holding a job, or if you have been in the corporate setting before, the AGCO internship program gives you a chance to better understand the synergies between business, education and employment. My time as an intern has been a great experience. With access to various people and resources, it has given me a hands-on opportunity to apply my education and further develop the skills I will need to be successful in the labor force, and add value to my community.
Partnerships such as the one AGCO has with its interns are instrumental in providing youth with continued education and development. The boys and girls that compose our world’s youth today will eventually be the men and women making our world’s biggest decisions. This is why it is important that they receive support from people and organizations globally.
The U.N wants to hear your thoughts and recommendations about effective ways to support our young people. If you want to offer your thoughts or share your success stories, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org!
These are the last days of AGCO’s Farm Sustainability Blog Contest. Write a short blog or submit a video post about what sustainability means to you, or on your farm. Winning entries will be posted on the AGCO blog and shared with others. In addition, 10 winning authors will help AGCO distribute $5000 in donations.
With the population growing every day, sustainable farm operations are now more important than ever before. Farmers on the field know sustainability; we want to hear from you.
Sign up here, and share what you have been doing with us!