Dale Parker and Richard Hartman
Sedgwick County Conservation District
25 years ago, Dale Parker and Richard Hartman moved back to the Parker family ranch after establishing successful careers outside of farming and ranching. Parker received her B.A. in environmental biology from the University of Colorado and studied agriculture science and management at U.C. Davis. Parker conducted medical research at John Hopkins and the University of Colorado medical school and became a quality control/microbiologist for Coors and Anheuser Busch brewing companies. Hartman received a B.A. in biology from U.C. Irvine and a B.S. in fermentation science from U.C. Davis. Hartman became a supervisor for the Heileman Brewing Company in Baltimore, Md., as well as for Coors and Anheuser Bush.
Parker and Hartman farm irrigated drylands and run a cow-calf stocker operation. They have always been conservation-minded and have worked that into their operation. Their system includes rotational grazing on their native range, grazing corn stalks and cover crops during the winter, and planting over four miles of tree rows and windbreaks. After purchasing their first no-till drill in 2013, Parker and Hartman transformed their operation to completely no-till and began planting a cover crop mix for grazing on their dryland acres.
On the irrigated ground, they plant alfalfa and sorghum-sudangrass for grazing; however, these crops are never a monoculture but include brassicas, legumes and grasses. By introducing additional species, they have seen an improvement in the sorghum-sudangrass.
The biggest challenge Parker and Hartman face is weed pressures, but currently, they are utilizing livestock to graze weeds in the spring. Parker and Hartman say it is a continual learning process. By using the Haney soil test, however, they’re able to quantify improvements in their soil health.
With their concern over climate change and the belief that healthy soils with good grazing practices could have a positive effect on carbon sequestration, Parker and Hartman are inspired to implement good soil health practices in their operation. Economically, they see the return is in the long term rather than the short term. And the dryland was just not producing sufficient income for the labor needed and inputs that were utilized.
Through the seasons of drought, the land has experienced some setbacks, and especially in the drylands, this can last for years. Parker and Hartman have experienced and seen for themselves that healthy soils will survive a drought much better than tilled soil.
Posted July 2018.