Renewable Farming

“I had to get the soil healthy so I really pushed the cover crops hard”

That quote comes from Tom Cotter, in a No-Till Farmer feature just published. Cotter farms in Mower County, MN a couple of hours north of our farm near Cedar Falls, IA. The detailed story, written by Angela Lovell, is a descriptive example of a farmer who has worked years to build toward our recommended goal of a resilient farming operation.

November 26, 2018 — When you read that feature, you’ll see the major ingredients which can carry a farming enterprise through low prices, weather stress and relentlessly high costs:

1. Cotter gradually refined his cover crop program. Over 15 years, learning how to interseed covers into corn and soybeans for earlier fall growth in spite of his northern Corn Belt latitude. Here in Grundy County and Black Hawk County, Iowa, we’ve long referred to Mower County, MN as “tundra country.” Note the diversity of his covers — grasses, brassicas, legumes.

2. His diversity calls for greater management, but managerial skill is a high-return “product.” He maintains a 50-cow beef herd, leveraging the benefits of cover crops with grazing. He raises 150 acres of sweetcorn and 150 acres of peas in rotation with 765 acres of no-tilled soybeans and corn.

On the web version of Angela Lovell’s feature, you’ll see alongside Cotter’s photo a quote from him: “My ground was addicted to tillage, chemicals and fertilizers so I felt I needed to earn the right to no-till my sweet corn…”

We regularly patrol the ag publication websites for articles relevant to our Renewable Farming objectives. Such articles are rare. But the link above takes you to one that packages a lot of what we see as answers to making any farm resilient.