Renewable Farming

Congratulations to AgWeb for a daring report on a non-GMO, cover crop farmer

AgWeb associate editor Chris Bennett’s July 7, 2020 feature story on Adam and Seth Chappell dramatizes their transition from conventional GMO farming to cover crops, non-GMO seed — and finally, profitability. 

July 13, 2020  By Jerry Carlson — Chris infused his report with specific, lively details on how the brothers rescued their 8,000 acres from palmer amaranth, low yields and chronic losses. I see very few major ag media features describing farmers who’ve escaped from the vortex of GMOs and their linked weedkillers. Chris wrote a story I wish I had written!

Quotes from Adam Chappell and Chris Bennett invite you to read the entire article at the link above. I’ll lift a few fair-comment excerpts to tempt you:

How does a farmer pull the handbrake on an agronomic system, toss pride out the window, and start again? Ask Chappell. Maverick, contrarian, skeptic, trailblazer, or pragmatist, the tags fit Chappell to a T.

Blessed and cursed with a manic mind in constant motion, he conducts a symphony of wide rows, public varieties, low planting populations, non-GMO production, cover crops, livestock, intercropping, and more — all with a keen eye fixed on savings.

“Money fuels my engine,” he says. “Call it soil health, conservation, sustainable, regenerative, or any other buzzword of the day — frankly, I don’t care. My savings have been incredible and I just call my farming what it is: survival and profitability.”

 Chris retraces the Chappell brothers’ transition starting in 2009, when the farm “was neck-deep in Palmer amaranth, fighting a weed plague and noting the gradual inefficacy of herbicides.” 

That fall of 2009, Adam Chappell began watching YouTube’s “endless videos on organic production,” discovering how a Pennsylvania pumpkin grower had planted into six-foot-high cereal rye. “Significantly, the field was clean. No weeds.”

Chappell planted 300 acres of cereal rye. In spring 2010, he terminated the rye at one foot height — “which we don’t do now.” Even that first season, he needed “no chopping crew and no chemicals necessary.”

By 2011, his cover crops blanketed 2,300 acres. Through floods, drought, commodity price  plunges and failure of Turner Grain, a major local grain dealer the next three years, the team endured and saw progress.

“Our crops under covers were so much better, even better than no-till or conventional ground. It wasn’t a big yield bump in my corn and soybeans on covers, but it was the money spent to get those yields.”

Every year since, the brothers have built in changes, such as adding cattle to graze cover crops, raising some of their own cover crop seed, and gaining premiums for non-GMO corn and beans.

Yes, there is a “rest of the story.” This is just a preview; I encourage you to feast on the entire report.  And think about what you might want to try next season.


Seth (left) and Adam Chappell   Photo by Chris Bennett