Sussex Conservation District
Baxter Farms, Inc.
My name is James H. Baxter IV (Jay), of Baxter Farms Inc. in Georgetown, Delaware. I’m a fourth generation farmer, a 2002 graduate of the University of Delaware and I am married with three children. I live and farm within the Sussex Conservation District. Just as my family before me left a legacy of productive farmland, I want to leave a legacy of higher producing farmland for my children and their children.
Soil Health Practices
We are a 2,000+ acre farming operation growing corn, soybeans, wheat, sweet corn black eyed peas, fresh market edamame and lima beans. We also have a 200,000 broiler chicken operation. Our farm utilizes many species of cover crops including legumes, grasses and brassicas.
We are still young in the efforts to build our soil’s organic matter utilizing minimum till, no-till and cover crop practices. We started using cover crops on a very small scale 10-15 years ago and now 100% of our cash crops no-till into cover crops, including our processing vegetable crops.
As part of the requirement for applying waste water irrigation, we had to grow a crop all year long. Cover crops seemed to be the fit. We are learning different, more efficient processes including, but not limited to, the Sussex Conservation District’s cover crop air seeder built by Buckeye Soil Solutions in Ada, Ohio. The air seeder plants cover crops into a standing agronomic crop. The cover crop takes advantage of the longer growing degree days to get a good start.
Adopting soil health practices has shown tremendous increase in soil health including soil aggregate size and soil tilth. Decreased erosion due to rain runoff and wind displacement is also an added benefit. Increased soil health has added to the water holding capacity, decreased soil temperature variation and increased organic matter. All of these contribute to my bottom dollar. Besides drinking, we also recreate in the water – fishing, swimming and water skiing. It is part of the heritage I will pass on the next generation along with healthy soil and a profitable business.
There have been some modifications to our plans along the way. We have had to adapt our herbicide program and invest in additional application, tillage and planting equipment. Challenges we foresee in the future could be combating invasive organisms such as slugs due to the changing soil environment.
We have a list of noxious and other weed species that have created a challenge for no-till and cover crop utilization. Our region is known for vegetable production which historically has always used conventional tillage practices. Some areas of the region have heavier soils that don’t drain as well, making it hard to establish cover crops during certain times of the year. Another challenge our region faces is the incorporation of poultry manure.