Jack and Pat HerricksCashton, WI

Herricks--300x200 NACDSoilHealthChampionLogoCashton, Wisconsin
Herricks Dairy Farm, Inc. 

We are parents of three adult children and the grandparents of seven. Our son Daniel and daughter Angie and their families dairy farm with us. We have been affiliated with Discovery Farms since 2010, and have worked extensively with the NRCS staff of the Monroe County office.

We have practiced no till farming since 1985. The rotation we use is corn for either grain or silage followed by rye or oats and then three years of alfalfa. Our farm is located in the driftless area of western Wisconsin, and soil erosion is always a concern. Cover crops have been used for about 10 years. We were a century farm in 2012. My father and grandfather began contour stripping in the early ’40’s. Our family received the Aldo Leopold award for Wisconsin in 2014.

Soil Health Practices

Probably the single best experience in incorporating soil health practices has been observing the change in yields that we have achieved over time. When I started farming in the seventies, the organic matter in our soils was usually in the 2.8% range. Now we see a lot of readings from 4.0 – 4.2%. The first years of no till were tough. Few people knew how to set planters and drills to get them to do what needed to be done. Herbicides and hybrids have both improved dramatically since then as well.

Challenges

The steep slopes are always a challenge. We use methods including contours strips, grass waterways, cover crops, and no till, and we leave as much residue as possible. A major concern is that the next generation of landlords are dollar driven and view their land as an investment. The conservation ethic of their parents and grandparents is not a part of who they are. As a renter it becomes difficult to make the investments in the land when you may be farming it for only one or two years.

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