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Success Story

Treat the Soil Good with NRCS

Publish Date
pollinator planting

In 2011, Chip Spatz decided to work with NRCS and construct a waste storage facility, which would give him the flexibility to stack and store poultry litter on his operation and minimize nutrient runoff and leaching.

Charles “Chip” Spatz Jr has been surrounded by farming his whole life. He was raised on a farm that his parents bought in Richfield, Juniata County.  At a young age, he was introduced to the ups and downs of agriculture when shortly after building a double chicken house, the integrator they were growing for, went bankrupt. Not having received a single income check from their integrator, the Spatz’ were faced with a tough decision, in order to keep the farm afloat. His dad decided to sell all the farm equipment, so he could keep making mortgage payments and rent the crop fields out to a neighboring farmer. Fortunately, they were able to be picked up by another poultry integrator quickly and kept the operation going.  

During his school years, he went on to become the President of his local FFA chapter and knew he would stay involved in agriculture after graduating. At first, he went on to work various off-the-farm jobs as a plumber and an electrician. As he approached his 40th birthday however, he felt ready to make a career change to something that has been apart of him his whole life. As a Concentrated Animal Operation (CAO) on his own farm, he knew the nutrient management process from a farmer’s perspective. He decided to take the courses and start writing nutrient management plans as a side-job. In 2004 however, as he finished his state-required coursework to become a certified plan writer, a relative informed him of an opening at the Juniata County Conservation District. The position would see him as an ag technician involved with reviewing nutrient management plans. He jumped on the opportunity. 

Tractor in field

In the meantime, his aging parents decided to enroll all the crop fields on the farm in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). As the years went on, Chip continued his career with the Conservation District, and then full ownership of the farm as well, which now consisted of approximately 28,000 broilers.

In 2011, he decided to work with NRCS and construct a waste storage facility, which would give him the flexibility to stack and store poultry litter on his operation and minimize nutrient runoff and leaching. Then, when the CREP contract on the cropland expired in 2012, he started growing corn, soybeans and small grains. He has a custom crew plant and harvest his crops, while he continues to work off the farm.  

As a person who “wears both hats” seeing as he is both a farmer and a conservation professional, Chip is careful to “practice what he preaches.” He is a big believer in no-till, cover cropping and responsible nutrient management. He has maintained a resource management system (RMS) level plan – addressing all major resource concerns on his farm. When new issues arise, he doesn’t hesitate to address them.

After the incredibly wet year of 2018, Chip noticed some gully erosion occurring. He immediately picked up the phone and scheduled a visit with NRCS to come up with solutions to the problem. In spring of 2021, he installed a grassed waterway and other supporting practices.  

Most recently, in concert with the Conservation Stewardship Program, Chip has planted diverse cover crop mixes after small grain harvest, planted field borders, and is replacing his single-walled fuel tanks with double-walled tanks. He is a part of the Juniata soil health group that meets several times a year to discuss the challenges and opportunities in managing a farm with soil health as a priority. When asked what interests him in soil health, he responded, “I’m just trying to do a good job, doing the best I can for the next generation.” He had three simple, yet key points to pass on, “Pay attention to your inputs. Pay attention to your return on investments. And the last one? Treat the soil good.”