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Soil Health Producer Profiles

Mark Haines of Sigourney terminated cereal rye using a crimp roller for the first time in 2016.

Iowa Farmer Sees Success Crimp Rolling Cereal Rye

Mark Haines of Sigourney is one of a handful of southeast Iowa farmers to successfully terminate their cereal rye cover crop this spring using a roller crimper.

Dick Sloan

Iowa Farmer Mixed Up in Cover Crops

When soil and water conservation professionals began encouraging farmers to implement practices that help improve soil health – instead of focusing primarily on reducing soil erosion – it made perfect sense to Buchanan County farmer Dick Sloan. With a biology background, he knew that fewer soil disturbing activities and more living roots in the ground meant more sustainable, productive soils.

Gene DeBruin of rural Oskaloosa is using cover crops and no-till farming to improve soil health and water quality.

Earthworms Replace Tillage for Oskaloosa Farmer

Southern Iowa farmer Gene DeBruin is replacing costly tillage with the free tillage service provided by earthworms and cover crop roots. The Oskaloosa corn and soybean grower no longer tills his 330 acres of cropland, but instead relies on earthworms for tillage. He also plants cover crops for even more erosion control and superb soil structure.

Marilyn Geidel

Cover Crops Just Seemed Like the Thing to Do

The more she read about cover crops and soil health, the more Marilyn Geidel became convinced she and her husband Wes should be trying them on their farm. “I have great interest in reading the farm magazines,” Marilyn explains. “The more I read, cover crops just seemed like the thing to do. It sounded good to us to build the soil and to prevent erosion on our hills.”

Ruth Rabinowitz

Ruth Rabinowitz: No One Will Care for the Land Like You Do

Nearly 2,000 miles separates Ruth Rabinowitz from her family’s Iowa farmland. Without the advantage of growing up on a farm, the new partner in Rabinowitz Family Farms now finds herself serving as the family’s point person for managing 10 farms in six Iowa counties as well as one farm in South Dakota. (HTML | PDF)

Lynn Betts worked with his renter to plant cover crops on 17 acres.

Lynn Betts: If You Believe Soil Is Alive, Treat It That Way

Most landowners who don’t actively farm their land, especially those who live away from it, don’t expect to or want to make day-to-day decisions on how the land is farmed. They leave that up to their tenant. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have the right and the responsibility to set the tone for long-term care of their land. In fact, that’s one of the most important things they can do, says Guthrie County, Iowa, absentee landowner Lynn Betts. (HTML | PDF)

Ann Frederick

Family Synchronized on Cover Crops

Ann Frederick’s family thinks alike on cover crops and conservation. “Cover crops work well on our farm because of our cows,” Ann says. “We all agree cover crops are good for our cows and good for our ground.” (HTML | PDF)

Sorensen owns a Wright County farm, but lives in Des Moines.

Sorenson Wrote Conservation Into Her Lease

Linda “Lin” Sorenson says the income from land she inherited from her father is an enormous blessing, and she’s made a point of educating herself on how to care for it as long as she lives. Building the soil with cover crops has become a central part of that care. (HTML | PDF)

Roger Lansink of Odebolt.

Organic Grower Harvests Soil Health Benefits

Organic farmer Roger Lansink says the success or failure of his operation rests squarely on his shoulders. “We can’t blame any crop failures on synthetic inputs—because we don’t use any,” he says. “But,” he adds, “we can also take all the credit for raising a successful, healthy crop.” (HTML | PDF)

Melissa and Andy Dunham own and operate Grinnell Heritage Farm in Grinnell, Iowa.

Iowa Couple Grows Food, Family, Community on Organic Farm
Some people are born to farm. Others grow to love it. In Melissa Dunham’s case, she fell in love with a farmer—and now she loves both the farmer and the farm. (HTML | PDF)

Jeanne Elbert Soil Health Profile

Healthy Soil is Central to Jeanne Elbert's Legacy
Northwest Iowa farmer Jeanne Elbert is using cover crops to improve soil health. With farming as she and her husband Troy's livelihood, soil health is the number one reason for cover crops. (HTML | PDF)

Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann run a certified organic farm in Harlan.

Powered by Diversity and Healthy Soil, Organic Farm Flourishes
A certified organic operation since 1994, Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann's 700-acre farm near Harlan is home to a remarkable amount of diversity—above and below the ground. (HTML | PDF)

Mark Korte of Palmer, Iowa.

Ready for Radishes? The Next Big Thing
Internet research on cover crops motivated Pocahontas County farmer Mark Korte to plant 500 acres of tillage radishes during the summer of 2013 as a preventive planting cover after a wet spring ruined his cash crop. (HTML | PDF)

Don McCool

Cover Crops Provide Immediate Soil Benefits for No-tiller
After five years researching cover crops, Guthrie County farmer Don McCool aerial seeded cereal rye on 420 acres on his cropland near Bayard on Sept. 9, 2013, and he saw immediate soil health benefits, including more root mass to feed microorganisms. (HTML | PDF)

Randy Rogers of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa.

Rogers Successfully No-tills River Bottoms
Erasing three words from his vocabulary – can’t, won’t and don’t – Woodbury County farmer Randy Rogers has effectively done what most local farmers have been unable or unwilling to do – successfully strip-till corn and no-till soybeans on the Missouri River Bottoms. (HTML | PDF)

Tim Smith in his cereal rye cover crop field.

MRBI Conservation Practices Improving Soil Conditions, Too
Eagle Grove farmer Tim Smith’s participation in a USDA conservation program designed to reduce nutrient and sediment loading into local waterways – and eventually the Mississippi River – is also improving the health of his soils using fewer disturbing activities such as deep tillage, over-fertilizing, and keeping living roots in the ground longer through cover crops. (HTML | PDF)

Joe Kriegel of Brooklyn kneels in his red clover field.

Kriegel Ahead of Cover Crops Trend
The number of cover crop acres has increased dramatically over the past five years in Iowa – from less than 10,000 acres in 2009 to about 300,000 acres this fall. One Iowa farmer who is helping to increase that number is Joe Kriegel who farms and grows cover crops on more than 2,000 acres in Poweshiek County with his three sons, Patrick, Nicholas, and Jared. (HTML | PDF)

Bill Totemeier

Mob Grazing Produces Healthy Soil and Livestock
Many attribute Iowa’s agricultural soil erosion and water quality issues to row crop production. However, open – or continuous – grazing can also lead to gullies and cattle trails that can cause severe erosion and sediment runoff, as well as reduce forage tonnage produced on Iowa pastures. (HTML | PDF)

Don Elsbernd of Postville, Iowa.

Conservation, Profits Outweigh Crop Yields
Growing strong crop yields is important to farmer Don Elsbernd, but the National Corn Growers Association member is more interested in protecting his natural resources and improving profit margins through soil conservation practices. (HTML | PDF)

Craig Brodersen of Charter Oak reduced erosion thanks to crop residue and cover crops.

Cover Crops Hold Soil Through Heavy Rain
Charter Oak farmer Craig Brodersen chose the right year to start using cover crops. He aerial-applied winter hardy cereal rye for the first time last fall into 400 corn acres, and it helped dramatically reduce erosion on much of his newly planted soybean ground this spring. (HMTL | PDF)

Dennis Lundy of Fontanelle, Iowa.

Premier Iowa Hay Grower Discovers Soil Health with No-Till Alfalfa
Adair County farmer Dennis Lundy began no-tilling alfalfa hay for the first time five years ago to prevent soil erosion on his rolling, highly erosive soils. Now, he is not only reducing soil erosion but also improving his soil health and achieving better alfalfa stands. (HMTL | PDF)

Wade Mitchell of Buckingham, Iowa.

Good Practices Ensure Healthy Soils
Wade Mitchell is one of a growing number of Iowa farmers who are "growing" their own crop insurance, through soil health management practices like no-till and cover crops that protect the soil and crop yields from weather extremes. (HMTL | PDF)

Ray Menke of rural Fort Madison, Iowa.

Soil Health Practices Help Menke Through Drought
Ray Menke of rural Fort Madison admits the main reason he switched to no-till farming in 1987 was his inability to afford new expensive farm equipment and machinery. Now, 26 years later, Menke is still leaving the soil undisturbed and he reaped the benefits during last year’s extreme drought. (HMTL | PDF)