I’ve heard most farms in the U.S. are owned by big corporations, is this true?
Nearly 97 percent of all farms are owned by families. My own farm is a large corporate farm in the sense that it is owned by my large family – my 10 brothers and sisters, a niece and nephew and me. We are incorporated for income tax purposes. I farm the land with my brother Mike, my sons Seth and Jesse, and a few other employees.
What do farmers do with all of the soybeans once they are harvested?
My beans go to one of three places. My commodity beans are sold to chicken farms for feed. My high oleic beans are turned into high-quality, long-lasting cooking oil. Finally, my specialty, high-protein beans are made into tofu.
As a soybean grower, what does “sustainability” mean to you?
Sustainability means so many things to a farmer! In the short term, it’s about keeping the land healthy and harvesting a crop with as little harm to the soil and water as possible. In the long term, it means leaving productive farmland for future generations.
What sustainability practices do you employ on your farm?
We employ every practice that fits the soil, topography, and weather. Some tactics include crop rotation, no-till farming, manure tests, using fuel efficient equipment and offsetting power usage with self-owned renewable energy systems. These aren't just sustainable, they're successful and cost efficient.
What’s your favorite part of working in agriculture?
I love working in agriculture because it is more than a job; it’s my life, legacy and passion. I love to see the fruits of my labor growing in the field every year. I’m fortunate to be doing the same thing that my family has been doing for 70 years, and something that I can leave to my kids to carry on in the future. In addition, I enjoy that my role is very diverse: agriculture involves everything from computer GPS, to diesel mechanics, to accounting, to plant biology.
How does sourcing U.S.-grown ingredients benefit food companies?
The quality and quantity of U.S.-grown crops ensures that food companies are guaranteed a consistent and nutritious supply. Additionally, sourcing domestic ingredients supports U.S. job growth!
What type of soybeans do you grow? Why?
About half the soybeans we plant each year come from seeds developed via biotechnology and half are from seeds produced using traditional breeding methods. Our use of biotechnology is a big part of our sustainability initiative. It allows us to partially no-till our land, saving soil and using less biodiesel. The bio-engineered crop is weed-free and top quality.
Are you using any new technology on your farm? If so, what and why?
We’ve recently begun using GPS technology. GPS eliminates the overlap of fertilizers and crop protectants, reducing waste. It also allows us to only use fertilizer on the plots that need it.
In the ever-changing landscape of sustainability and agriculture, how do you see your farming practices evolving over time?
In the digital era, we are able to generate mountains of data on efficient and sustainable growing practices. On my farm, we are working tirelessly to analyze the data and implement our findings. This approach has led to enhanced yields, elevated levels of sustainability, reduced cost per unit and higher profits.
How do you ensure that your farm keeps up with the growing demand for food as our population increases?
With constantly rising demand, biotechnology has become an integral tool for farmers of any crop. I also emphasize the maintenance of my soil to ensure a healthy and bountiful harvest. My hope is that the farm stays in my family for generations, bringing sustainably raised crops to the world for years!