soil health

On Farm Trial: Toussaint Farms No Till

Jeff Toussaint of Toussaint Farms in Ridgeway, NY transitioned from conventional tillage to zone-till in 1996 in an effort to reduce overhead and make farming less labor and fuel intensive. Four years ago, he eliminated the zone-till coulter from his operation and made the transition to no-till farming. Currently, Toussaint farms approximately 1,200 acres of corn, soybean, and wheat. 

In general, the early years of Toussaint’s transition to reduced and no-till went smoothly. Crop yields were about the same, and the time and money spent to get those yields was down. Like many no-till and min-till farmers in the Northeast, Toussaint struggled early on to air his soils out in WNY’s wet springtime conditions, with one field in particular putting up a good fight. Toussaint experimented over the years using different coulters, disturbing the soil more or less depending on what that particular field needed at the time, but always erring on the side of less disturbance in an effort to keep his reduced tillage goals on track. Toussaint stresses that every field is different, and some soils — like the soils in his problem field — don’t respond as readily as others to changes in management. You have to be patient and treat different soils according to their capabilities and their starting point. Now, after 21 years without conventional tillage, soil moisture issues are greatly reduced, making planting time and fuel efficient under standard WNY spring conditions.

While zone tillage worked well for their operation, Toussaint felt the time was right to switch to no-till in 2013. Technological advances in no-till made Toussaint feel confident that they “wouldn’t be losing anything” as far as yields and flexibility were concerned, but would be able to save more time and further reduce their overhead costs with a more streamlined operation. Though Toussaint does some tillage using his Turbo Till (vertical tillage) when absolutely necessary, all 1,200 acres are managed as no-till as much as possible. “I don’t think you can be 100% no-till all of the time”, says Toussaint, who sees his vertical tillage system as “a good compromise”. As an example, Toussaint will use his Turbo Till during wet years, particularly in fields that have a lot of residue. This mild disturbance chops and incorporates some of the residue and greatly reduces the likelihood of slug issues, as it eliminates the otherwise ideal habitat of a cool, damp space. Toussaint is much more likely to use the Turbo Till ahead of soybeans, which are more likely to be damaged by slugs, a problem he personally experienced in his fields when he first became no-till. 

One of Toussaint's fields in an elaborate multi-species cover crop mix in September 2016. Photo by Jena Buckwell.

One of Toussaint's fields in an elaborate multi-species cover crop mix in September 2016. Photo by Jena Buckwell.

In addition to going no-till, Toussaint began working with cover crops about 5 years ago. He is a big proponent of cover crop mixes, his favorite being a 3-way mix of crimson clover, radish, and annual ryegrass. For Toussaint, it was exciting to reincorporate brassicas, something that used to be grown on their farm many years ago, but has not been in their rotation for some time. He’s glad to be “feeding something in the soil that hasn’t been nurtured in years” and diversifying the biological aspects of his soils. In Fall 2016, Toussaint took it a few steps further and began experimenting with more elaborate mixes — using sunflower, annual ryegrass, crimson clover, turnips, radish, wheat, sun hemp, and sorghum all on one field. Toussaint looks forward to seeing how this mixture impacts his soils and his planting in 2017 and plans to continue working with cover crop mixes with the goal of establishing a variety of root systems, trying to accomplish his soil health goals “with nature instead of steel”. 

Since going no-till, Toussaint has noticed a variety of biological improvements in his soil, including increased earthworm activity and greater ease of planting. Over the years, planting has gotten easier and easier, with seeds going into the ground evenly, and machinery moving over their fields smoothly, causing minimal compaction and increasing the amount of acreage they can plant in a day. “Crusting issues have been nil” and standing water following snow melt and rain storms has been greatly reduced. Toussaint’s wheat, which has been completely no-till drilled for the last 3 years, has stood up to recent snow melt and heavy precipitation particularly well, soaking up the extra moisture and storing it for later, a sign of improved soil structure and health. 

Biological improvements have not been the only contributing factor to Toussaint’s happiness with no-till, the financial aspects of no-till and cover cropping have greatly increased Toussaint Farms’ resilience. As stated previously, Toussaint’s yields have stayed more or less the same they were when he was using conventional tillage — with some years proving to be phenomenal, some being a bit of a disappointment and most being completely average. The big difference has been that their decrease in overhead and labor has increased their profit per acre as well as the amount of acreage they can efficiently manage. Toussaint saves a lot on fuel costs, as he runs his machinery over the field significantly less than a conventional till farm. He has also saved a lot on labor because he has less machinery, which means fewer parts to replace and fewer man hours to operate and maintain machinery. His Nitrogen efficiency has also really improved, allowing for only about 0.9 lbs/bushel of added N for his corn crop. While cover crop seed and no-till machiney certainly cost money, the cost is easily recouped when you consider the money saved in maintaining topsoil by protecting your fields from wind and water erosion, as well as the time and fuel saved when your soils are healthy, well structured and easy to work. 

Planting green into red clover in 2016. Photo provided.

Planting green into red clover in 2016. Photo provided.

On June 2 2016, some of Toussaint's red clover cover crop was still growing.Photo provided.

On June 2 2016, some of Toussaint's red clover cover crop was still growing.Photo provided.

Despite Toussaint’s long-running success with reduced and no-till, 2016 brought Toussaint’s biggest lesson to date. In previous years, Toussaint’s no-till practices have mitigated the negative impacts of dry weather, a testament to the benefits of improved soils with greater moisture holding capacity, but Toussaint unknowingly created the perfect storm this past growing season when he experimented with planting green into red clover. While Toussaint’s previous experiments with planting green worked well, particularly with crimson clover (an annual with a less aggressive root system than red clover) and ryegrass, this years extreme drought and the harder-to-kill red clover cover crop resulted in devastatingly low corn yields on some of his acreage. While most of Toussaint’s corn yield was only slightly below average, the red clover proved too vigorous to be controlled, and the still-established red clover outcompeted the corn for the little moisture we had, resulting in some very sad looking corn fields. Though those fields were a financial loss and very difficult to look at throughout the 2016 season, Toussaint fully intends to plant green in the future. He has vowed to never use red clover for planting green again, but given his previous successes with planting green into other cover crop species, he does not intend to let one bad year deter him. Toussaint’s top lesson learned? “Experiment small and don’t assume you can manage different species the same.” On the upside, 2016 was one of the best years Toussaint has had for soybeans, which had the benefit of some late summer precipitation that seemed to help them bounce right back after a long, hot, and dry summer. 

Jeff Toussaint (left) and his son, Matt (center) at the WNY Soil Health Alliance’s 2015 Annual Meeting and Soil Health Workshop. Photo by Jena Buckwell.

Jeff Toussaint (left) and his son, Matt (center) at the WNY Soil Health Alliance’s 2015 Annual Meeting and Soil Health Workshop. Photo by Jena Buckwell.

While this past growing season brought a low blow, Toussaint states confidently that he has never regretted the switch to no-till and will never go back to conventional tillage. Despite challenges in 2016, Toussaint reminds himself that there were failures with tillage too, and that while difficult, this year’s experiment proved a valuable learning experience for himself as well as other farmers in the area. For farmers considering the transition to no-till, Toussaint advices that they “read, ask questions, and don’t overcomplicate it”. Like with any farm system, Toussaint stresses that you need to find a way to get seed into the soil evenly for good germination, and if you’re just getting started with the hands-on part of no-till farming, he suggests small scale no-till drilling into soybean stubble, which is easy to work through because of minimal residue. As far as cover crops are concerned, Toussaint urges farmers to fully understand the species they’re working with before putting it in the ground. Different varieties of the same cover crop can have different growth habits and will require different management and different methods to eradicate come spring, so make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into. And don’t give up just because of one bad experience with cover crops — the benefits are there, you just need to understand how to tap into them. Start small and have a plan for eradication before planting. 

To learn more about Toussaint Farms operation, click here.

Resource Spotlight: Soil Health Management Planning Worksheet

Getting started with a soil health management plan can be a daunting task. Even farmer's who are experienced with no- or reduced-till and cover crops may find themselves struggling to make decisions on where to go next in their soil health journey. If you're looking to get your soil health toes wet, or just need help re-establishing your goals, the Soil Health Management Planning Worksheet is a short, simple way to get you headed in the right direction. PDF file available for download here.

On Farm Trial: Hu-Lane Farm LLC's long term No-Till

Most years, driving by Hu-Lane Farm LLC in Albion, NY may seem like driving by any other farm in Western NY. Like a lot of farms in the area, partners Hugh and Eleni Dudley, their son Kurt, and grandson Jesse Farwell, grow corn, soybean, hay, and a handful of other crops on 1,200 acres. 

Hugh Dudley discussing the past growing season at WNY Soil Health Alliance’s Annual Meeting in December 2016.

Hugh Dudley discussing the past growing season at WNY Soil Health Alliance’s Annual Meeting in December 2016.

Though appearances can be deceiving under average weather conditions, this family farm looked noticeably different from other area farms during the 2016 drought, putting out impressive yields despite record low precipitation. What’s the secret to their success? Hugh Dudley attributes the farm’s resilience during less-than-favorable conditions to his 25 years of minimum tillage (min-till), life-long commitment to crop rotations, and extensive drain tiling that covers 100% of Hu-Lane’s acreage. 

While Dudley has always been a strong advocate and user of crop rotations, his transition to min-till was a long, and sometimes bumpy, road. Dudley was interested in min-till (a term commonly used by Canadian farmers) from the early 1960s, when as an Agriculture teacher at Albion High School, he started learning more about the technique through a Canadian farming expo field trip he attended with his Future Farmers of America (FFA) class. During his teaching career, he worked with FFA to experiment with min-till methods in Orleans County primarily for educational purposes. From these experiments, Dudley knew there was still a lot to learn and a lot to be done, but that in general, min-till greatly reduced weed pressure, and was a truly promising alternative to conventional tillage that could save farmers a lot of time and money. 

A few years later, in the early 70s, Dudley decided to take the day off school and head up to London, ON to attend the Innovative Farmers of Canada annual conference. While there, his interest in min-till was further stoked, and he gained insight on how he could convert his planter for min-till. This was during a time that monoculture was becoming increasingly popular in the Northeast, a concept that went against the grain of everything Dudley had always done with his multi-year rotations, making Orleans County look more and more like the Midwest. Despite pressure to do the same, Dudley carried on with his diversified crop rotations and continued to work toward transitioning to min-till. 

For years, Dudley experimented with min-till methods, having breakthroughs and setbacks like any other farmer trying something new. While Dudley has never experienced a complete crop failure, he did struggle with min-till early on. During his trials, Dudley came to the conclusion that his biggest obstacle in min-till was variable drainage, which ultimately led to variable yields. While his soils were generally healthy from years of careful crop rotation and management, each year he struggled to start the season with ideal moisture conditions. To control that variable, Dudley purchased a drain tile plow in 1990, started laying drain tile, and never looked back. Since then, Kurt Dudley has taken over much of the drain tile work and often lays drain tile for other farmers in the area as an additional income source for the farm. 

Hugh and Eleni Dudley’s son and business partner Kurt lays drain tile for other farmers in the area using Hu-Lane’s drain tile plow.

Hugh and Eleni Dudley’s son and business partner Kurt lays drain tile for other farmers in the area using Hu-Lane’s drain tile plow.

“Every year’s going to be different. There’s no such thing as average.”
— Hugh Dudley

Much as Hu-Lane’s success can be attributed to their soil health management, it can also be attributed to their overall willingness to adapt and try new enterprises, such as laying drain tile, or aerial broadcasting cover crops. Over the years, Hu-Lane has seen a handful of enterprises come, and sometimes go. In addition to growing their standard cash crops, Hu-Lane are seed producers, and have in the past had a large beef herd (a small portion of which Kurt continues to manage), a hog operation, and a christmas tree farm. 

Grandson and business partner, Jesse Farwell aerial broadcasts cover crop seed on Hu-Lane’s, as well as other area farmers fields. This method is much in the experimentation phase.

Grandson and business partner, Jesse Farwell aerial broadcasts cover crop seed on Hu-Lane’s, as well as other area farmers fields. This method is much in the experimentation phase.

As for the 2016 growing season, which was plagued by drought that caused crop damage throughout Western NY, Hu-Lane saw small decreases in their yields, but still managed to have a very successful season. Growing corn, soybean, wheat, snap beans, peas, sweet corn, hay, and barley as cash crops, Hu-Lane yielded an average of 190 bushel/acre of corn (average 240 bushel/acre typically) and an impressive 74 bushel/acre on soybean. One 40 acre soybean field even put out 80 bushel/acre with no irrigation. Dudley attributes the successful season to the fact that they were able to plant earlier than many farmers. After years and years of min-till, their fields have excellent structure, and thanks to their subsurface drainage tile, their fields are workable earlier in the season without causing compaction. “We don’t make ruts.” Dudley states, quite plainly. As a direct benefit of getting planted earlier, the crops were able to establish themselves while there was still some spring moisture in the soil, getting their roots pushed down deep into the high quality, water holding soil where moisture and nutrients were more readily available throughout the season.

Looking to the future, Dudley plans to experiment more with cover cropping, a practice he’s only recently gotten on board with in the last few years. The difficulty of establishing cover crops after harvest has always been significant in this region because of our short growing season, but Dudley sees interseeding as a truly viable option. While Dudley concedes that there’s still plenty of logistical concerns that need to be sorted out, Hu-Lane’s success in establishing aerial broadcasted barley into corn and soybeans in 2016 provides a good starting point for future trials on their own farm. Hu-Lane has also recently made changes to their farm to increase their irrigation capacity. While their crops fared well enough with only 120 of their 1,200 acres being irrigated (3”) in 2016, they are looking to increase their resilience to drought by increasing the size of their farm pond, which is pumped by an old windmill purchased at auction, a project that was completed in Fall 2016. Something Dudley would like to improve on in the future is the farm’s use and understanding of irrigation technology to make their water usage as efficient as possible.

Hu-Lane Farm set an excellent example for other local farmers this year, by demonstrating fully the benefits that can come from a long-term commitment to min-till. While Dudley is hesitant to use the fairly new and very popular term “soil health practices”, he is quick to point out that the general concepts have been around for a very long time. He remembers the textbook he used as a young Agriculture teacher in the early ‘60s and how so many of the ideas he hears discussed now at soil health workshops were in there as well, just without any sort of official name or terminology. He's glad to see an increased interest in the methods he’s been practicing for most of his farming career, and despite early warnings that he “doesn’t like to talk much” is often more than happy to talk with younger farmers about all his successes, setbacks, and funny stories that come with a lifetime of farming. 

Hugh Dudley’s Top 5 Tips

1. Drainage is key. If you want to be able to no- or min-till in this area, you need to have your soil moisture under control.

2. Crop rotations are absolutely essential. 

3. Take it easy on your soils — “if it’s too wet, don’t plant.” It’s not worth the compaction.

4. Do your soil testing and make sure to scout crops. Find problems as early as possible and “chase them” until you know what went wrong and how to avoid that problem in the future. 

5. “Always kill clover in the fall.” The vigorous root system makes it too strong by spring and you’ll spend lots of time, money, and herbicides trying to get it under control. 

Resource Spotlight: Adaptation Workbook

The USDA and the US Forest Service Department of Agriculture recently launched a digital Adaptation Workbook for Forestry and Agriculture. “The Adaptation Workbook is a structured process to consider the potential effects of climate change on forest ecosystems and design land management and conservation actions that can help prepare for changing conditions.” 

The workbook has a lot of flexibility to accommodate a wide variety of enterprises and relies on farmers gaining an understanding of their own geologic and climatic conditions, as well as having a strong grasp of their farm’s objectives and management goals. The Workbook was created because “more and more information is becoming available on climate change projections and potential impacts on natural resources and agriculture. Unfortunately, most of this information doesn't seem applicable because many land owners and managers are unsure how climate change might actually apply at the scales that are relevant to their work. The Adaptation Workbook was created to bridge this gap.”

The Workbook consists of 5 basic steps:

  1. Define goals and objectives
  2. Assess climate impacts and vulnerabilities
  3. Evaluate objectives considering climate impacts
  4. Identify adaptation approaches and tactics for implementation
  5. Monitor effectiveness of implemented actions

While the main focus of the workbook is to help create a structure for climate adaptation, there are also elements of mitigation within the process. Though complete mitigation of climate change is likely impossible, there are many adaptation projects that go hand in hand with mitigation strategies, and vice versa. 

The Workbook can be used for Agriculture and Forestry. PDF versions of the workbook are also available at the links below. To use the online version, visit

Adaptation Resources for Agriculture

Forest Adaptation Resources: climate change tools and approaches for land managers, 2nd edition.



Resource Spotlight: NRCS Conservation Webinars

With the weather in Western NY being slightly less than pleasant in recent weeks, the chance to sit down, take a load off, and learn something new is upon us and USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services Conservation Webinars series is a great place to do just that. 

2016 offered a wide variety of webinars, but the following offer soil health specific content. If you’re interested in learning the basics of soil health check out The New Division of Soil Health: Approach and Benefits, Biological Indicators of Soil Health: What they are, how they are measured, and what is on the horizon?, and Soil Erosion: A Historical Perspective

There’s plenty to learn through these webinars about grazing in general, but Integrating Grazing into Cropping Systems, and Grazing Management on CRP Acres to Improve Soil Health will give you a soil health POV. 

Other soil health related topics include Farming Implements in Action: Impacts on the Soil, Erosion Potential of Tillage Systems, and Economics, Managing Soil Quality in Forests, Soil Health Impacts on Pest Management, and Soil Health in High Tunnel Production.

Recordings of all 2016 Conservation webinars are available here and can be viewed at any time.

Upcoming webinars for 2017 are full of promise. There are two webinars scheduled that will feature first hand view and commentary from farmers including Soil Health Economics - A Farmer's Perspective, and Managing Cover Crops in an Arid Region: A Farmer's Perspective

The basics of soil microbes will be covered in Soil Microbes Every Agronomist Should Know, and grazing for soil health will be discussed in Using Adaptive Grazing to Improve Soil Health in Grazing Ecosystems. 

Soil Health impacts on resource concerns, specifically water quality, will be covered in Movement of Nutrients through Soils: Impacts of Land Management (or lack of) on Water Quality, and various operation specific discussions and their relationship to soil health will be covered in Soil Health Challenges of High Disturbance Crops, Improving Soil health in Irrigated Intensive Vegetable Production, and Improving Soil Health on Confinement-based Dairies.

New live presentations will be available throughout 2017. Click here to see a full list of offered webinars and their scheduled dates and times. Recordings of each webinar become available within a few weeks of the live presentation if you are unable to attend day of. 

Orleans Co. Environmental Book Club to discuss Dust Bowl and local Soil Health

Arguably the worst human-caused disaster in American history, the Dust Bowl spanned through the darkest days of the American Depression, costing many farmers and homesteaders their homes, their health, all their money, and often their own lives and those of their family members. 

Understanding the damage that can be done by poor soil management should be an integral part of every farmers self education, making The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan essential reading for anyone interested in how we as farmers and land stewards can work with nature to mitigate our negative impacts and reduce the likelihood of erosion. Whether it be erosion in the form of a massive dust cloud, or a fast moving stream dumping our topsoil and nutrients into a nearby lake, the capacity for that erosion to harm both our farm health and the health of nearby land, water and people is something we are responsible for controlling through better stewardship. 

Throughout 2017, Orleans County SWCD will be hosting an Environmental Book Club at Albion Hoag Library. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan is our book club selection for February 2017 and we encourage all local farmers and concerned citizens to join our group in discussion on February 7th at 7pm in “The Loft”. Discussion will include both commentary on the book, as well as a proactive discussion on how our community can help mitigate erosion and improve our soils. 

A flyer with further information can be downloaded here.

The Locals: WNY Soil Health Alliance Annual Meeting and Soil Health Workshop

For many farmers, winter is a time for learning new skills and making a plan for the upcoming year. WNY Soil Health Alliance hosts their annual meeting and soil health workshop each year in December to give farmers and soil health professionals the opportunity to become better stewards of their land through educational presentations and discussion with other local farmers. 2016’s meeting was hosted at Elba Firemen’s Hall in Elba, NY on December 21st with an excellent turnout from local farmers.

WNY Soil Health Alliance President Donn Branton, and secretary/treasurer Dennis Kirby welcome workshop attendees.

WNY Soil Health Alliance President Donn Branton, and secretary/treasurer Dennis Kirby welcome workshop attendees.

The first presentation was from Dr. Janice Theis and focused on the basics of the “Soil Food Web” and soil biology. In the past, WNY Soil Health Alliance has received a lot of feedback from farmers that they’re interested in learning more about basic soil biology, and Theis did an excellent job covering that basic information. Additionally, Theis went into greater detail on how interactions in the soil’s lower trophic levels can help or hinder successful crop yields. Bacteria, fungi, protozoa, soil nematodes, and soil fauna (earthworms, arthropods) were all discussed with an emphasis on the benefits that most of these “critters” provide for healthy soils. Theis is a strong proponent of low spray operations and promotes the many ecological services provided by a diverse and healthy array of soil organisms.

Keynote speaker Steve Groff, farmer and owner of Cover Crop Consulting, gave two presentations, “Making Cover Crops Pay” and “Strategies for Terminating Cover Crops”.

Keynote speaker Steve Groff, farmer and owner of Cover Crop Consulting, gave two presentations, “Making Cover Crops Pay” and “Strategies for Terminating Cover Crops”.

Keynote speaker Steve Groff focused his first presentation “Making Cover Crops Pay” on the many ways that a focus on soil health can benefit a farm’s bottomline. He began his discussion by challenging attendees to think of their soils as something they need to nurture and grow. Groff is a strong believer in treating cover crops as you would a cash crop, with carefully considered planting times, preparation and seed selection. Groff views cover crops as “another tool of the trade” that farmers need to take the time to understand and experiment with — more than anything, Groff challenged workshop attendees to be open minded on the possibilities that are available with cover crop systems and to take the time to carefully identify what your goals are in soil building practices, just as you would with a cash crop. Groff stressed timeliness of planting and a strong understanding of the growth habits of the variety you are using. Groff recommends “making your cover crop pay” by focusing on the resulting increased tolerance to weather extremes, erosion control that allows you to keep your precious topsoil where it belongs, and the increased presence of a diverse soil food web. Additionally, there are opportunities in weed suppression, which reduces costs associated with weed control; cover crops can be used as alternative feed and forage sources; and there are financial benefits to improving public perception of farming. The discussion ended with an overview of some of the local cost-share programs available through Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) and Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), both from Groff as well as local agency representatives Jim LaGioia (NRCS, Batavia), Maggie Gnann (NRCS, Albion), and Molly Cassatt (Genesee Co. SWCD).

Following lunch, Groff returned for “Strategies for Terminating Cover Crops” in which he focused on understanding the differences between cover crops that will winter kill, cover crops that will easily be killed by herbicides, and cover crops that are often more difficult to kill, all of which require a good understanding of the varieties growth habits and of how to best manage them. Groff expanded on some of the harder-to-kill species, such as annual ryegrass and crimson clover. Additionally, Groff discussed interseeding, which he feels is a real soil health opportunity for NYS to take the lead on given our shorter growing season, the importance of mixing and creating diversity in your cover crops, and “the moisture factor”, which Groff describes as farmers paying attending to the moisture levels and forecasted rainfall in April and adjusting their cover crop plan accordingly to create appropriate moisture conditions for planting.

The annual meeting and soil health workshop had an excellent turnout of about 150 attendees.

The annual meeting and soil health workshop had an excellent turnout of about 150 attendees.

Following Steve Groff, Paul Salon of NRCS gave a brief presentation on a Cover Crop Calculator he’s been working on over the last year. The Cover Crop Calculator will be made available for farmers soon and will help farmers determine what cover crop mixes will best suit their needs based on their soils, goals, budget etc. 

Hugh Dudley of Hu-Lane Farms was one four speakers on the Farmer Panel at the end of the soil health workshop.

Hugh Dudley of Hu-Lane Farms was one four speakers on the Farmer Panel at the end of the soil health workshop.

The workshop ended with brief presentations from 4 speakers. Hugh Dudley of Hu-Lane Farms has been no-till since 1991 and told the workshop attendees that he made that transition after many years of conventional plowing (despite a genuine love of plowing) because he had seen clear deterioration and compaction in his fields and wanted to try to amend those issues. Despite the 2016 drought year, Hu-Lane had excellent yields on nearly all their fields, a fact Hugh attributes to their long term commitment to no-till. 

Brad Macauley from Merrimac Farms provided a brief overview of his farm’s history with soil health building and how they faired in the less than ideal conditions of 2016. Merrimac Farms is a cash crop/dairy farm consisting of 3,000 acres and 350 milking head and young stock.

Jerry Hull of Thornapple Dairy LLC has been doing no-till and cover cropping for many years. His passion for soil health comes from his commitment to his family and his desire to see the farm that has been in their family for 199 years continue to be healthy and successful for many generations to come. His main points of discussion were “stop tilling” and “keep the ground covered 365 days a year”. 

The panel wrapped up with Dave DeGolyer of WNY Crop Management giving an overview of some their cover cropping trials, both successes and failures from the past two years. Like many farmers, Dave and his team at WNY Crop Management really struggled in 2016, but are ready to get back to it in 2017. 

“The Locals” is a WNY SHA blog series focused on sharing what other local farmers are doing throughout the year to help others interested in soil health gain insight into the intricacies of scheduling soil building practices into their farm business.

On Farm Trial: Branton Harvest 2016

Branton Farms Stafford, NY

Like all farmers in Western New York in the 2016 season, Donn and Chad Branton of Branton Farms had to make do with the little bit of precipitation we had. After 28 years of reduced till and no-till practices, and some quick thinking in the present, the Branton's had a good harvest, despite the difficult conditions.