While the “original” events in Hawaii were discontinued in 1980, our staff considered producing an event like the National No-Tillage Conference (NNTC) for years. But we always seemed to have more than we could handle in getting our magazines, newsletters and books out the door.
But when we heard in the summer of 1992 that Monsanto was going to hold several regional no-till conferences the following winter, we knew we had to launch the NNTC or get left behind. The late Howard Doster, Purdue University ag economist, was concerned about us having to compete with the deep pockets of Monsanto, but he and others were ready to jump in and create an unbiased learning format, free of company lines or agendas.
We went out to our subscribers with a survey in the summer of 1992 and received 659 “make the conference happen” votes from farmers. So we moved forward on the NNTC in Indianapolis for January 1993 with a goal of attracting 150 no-tillers.
We mailed an 8-page program in October that immediately drew 400 registrants at a $169 fee (a far cry from the $15 extension meetings in those days). Then 600 signed up, and we had to start a waiting list because the hotel ballrooms couldn’t accommodate any more. We were able to get almost 200 more in (still turning away an almost equal amount) but had to feed farmers on different floors. In the end, we drew 814 attendees from 21 states, as well as Canada, Brazil and Argentina.
No-tillers had found “their people” and the formula worked because of the farmer-to-farmer sharing that was present that first year and every year since.
Despite their own plans for a company-line no-till event, Monsanto supported the NNTC for the first 11 years. In the end, the NNTC outlasted Monsanto’s interest in running meetings on the no-till practice.
— Frank Lessiter, EditorClick Here To View Enlarged Slideshow
NNTC Was My Support Team
In the early days of no-till, you needed a support team, as no-tilling for farmers was much like city folks needing therapy. You needed somebody to help you fully understand no-till, to listen to you whine about the results and to challenge you to solve the problems.
The National No-Tillage Conference has played a big part in my success. I’ve only missed the first couple of these annual mid-winter events. It’s my one chance a year to get my batteries recharged for the coming crop year. The speakers, topics and hallway networking help you find new ways to make no-till more effective and offer the confidence that you are on the right path. With hundreds of other no-tillers in attendance who continue to innovate to overcome the cropping challenges, you realize that you can be successful as well.
– Marion Calmer, Alpha, Ill.
“There’s always a lot to learn and a chance to mingle with the top minds who are no-tilling.”
— R.D. Wolheter, Wolcottville, Ind.
“This remains the best format and the best load of no-till information that can be found anywhere.”
— Andy Williamson, Jefferson, Maine
“Thanks to no-till, I’ve made more money in the past 5 years than I did in the previous 25 years of farming. This event is one of the best no-till experiences you can have anywhere in the world.”
— Mike Wolpert, Hurricane, W. Va.
“I can’t afford to miss this conference. The no-till tips and ideas I gain each year that I can use on my farm are invaluable.”
— Paul Winkler, Philpot, Ky.
“Aside from the best 4 days of planting, these are my farm’s best 4 days of the year.”
— Joe Keller, Prairie du Sac, Wis.
“Attending helps me find better ways to increase my profits while building a more healthy soil environment.”
— Graham Bishop, Clinton, Ind.
“I pick up diverse ideas I’d never hear about around home that I use to stimulate my no-till thinking.”
— Chuck Zumbrun, Churubusco, Ind.
“It’s the best place on earth to learn from others on how to accomplish the best ag practices.”
— David Timmer, Holland, Md.
“Knowledge not shared is knowledge wasted.”
— Saidi Mkomwa, African Conservation Tillage Network, South Africa
At the 30th Annual National No-Tillage Conference, No-Till Farmer commissioned a project to summarize the 30 most important no-till research and literature works in no-till’s history. Click www.no-tillfarmer.com/TopResearchWorks to view the lists and provide your commentary/suggestions for the next update./p>
NNTC Honor Roll (1993-21)
5 REMAIN WITH PERFECT ATTENDANCE. Following a special panel presentation at the 2017 National No-Tillage Conference (NNTC), No-Till Farmer recognized 7 individuals who had not missed a single conference in its 25-year history. From left are Allan Brooks (WI), Scott Davidson (IL), Allen Berry (IL), R.D. Wolheter (IN), Bryan Von Holten (MO), Randall Reeder (OH) and Frank Lessiter (WI). Davidson passed away in 2021 with 29 straight NNTCs under his belt, a streak in which he took great pride.
- Allen Berry, Nauvoo, IL – 29
- Allan Brooks, Markesan, WI – 29
- Scott Davidson, Dalton City, IL – 29
- Randall Reeder, Hilliard, OH – 29
- Bryan Von Holten, Cole Camp, MO – 29
- Rd Wolheter, Wolcottville, IN – 29
- Frank Lessiter, Brookfield, WI – 28
- Ross Bishop, Jackson, WI – 27
- Marion Calmer, Alpha, IL – 27
- Duane Lange, Ord, NE – 26
- Edward Neesen, Rogers, NE – 26
- Dan Towery, Lafayette, IN – 26
- Jim Arnaud, Monett, MO – 25
- Bob Featheringill, Attica, OH – 25
- Eddie Hoff, Boonville, MO – 25
- Larry Short, Wauseon, OH – 25
- Mike Wolpert, Hurricane, WV – 25
- John Gough, Deckerville, MI – 24
- Paul Nelson, Vickery, OH – 24
- Darrell Bruggink, Brookfield, WI – 23
- Alice Musser, Brookfield, WI – 23
- Robert Wildermuth, Clinton, WI – 23
- Don Wolf, Xenia, OH – 23
- Dean James, Danville, PA – 22
- Gerard Kau, Eagle, WI – 22
- Charles Pilling, Mediapolis, IA – 22
- Rod Ricker, Dunnville, ON, Canada – 22
- Les Seiler, Fayette, OH – 22
- Greg Swartzmiller, Attica, OH – 22
- Greg Biermann, Maitland, MO – 21
- Jerry Eitle, Willard, OH – 21
- Barry Fisher, Greencastle, IN – 21
- Todd Hesterman, Napoleon, OH – 21
- Harry Jones, Cutler, IN – 21
- Gary Kitchen, Bucklin, MO – 21
- Clinton Phillips, Rossville, IL – 21
- Mark Riehl, Onondaga, MI – 21
- Sam Swinford, Flat Rock, IN – 21
- Joel Myers, Spring Mills, PA – 20
- Kevin Conover, Berwyn Heights, MD – 20
- Roger Harrington, Ollie, IA – 20
- Steve Kramer, Corning, KS – 20
- Ron Neises, Belle Plain,e KS – 20
- Jim Pilling, Mediapolis, IA – 20
- Rodney Rulon, Arcadia, IN – 20
- Keith Wendte, Willowbrook, IL – 20
- Guy Williams, Iowa City, IA – 20
- Andy Williamson, Jefferson, ME – 20
- Carl Ayers, Wauseon, OH – 19
- Steve Groff, Holtwood, PA – 19
- Fred Jones, Argos, IN – 19
- Marcy Little, Eaton, OH – 19
- Rich Little, Eaton, OH – 19
- Aaron Swinford, Flat Rock, IN – 19
- Beverly Weber-Ayers, Wauseon, OH – 19
- Rodney Carns, Cuba City, WI – 18
- Kelly Cheesewright, Chrisman, IL – 18
- Evan Copsey, Maitland, MO – 18
- Allen Dean, Bryan, OH – 18
- Doug Hisken, Belle Plaine, KS – 18
- Randy Mcelroy, Farina, IL – 18
- Kay Nelson, Vickery, OH – 18
- Sheldon Overmyer, Elmore, OH – 18
- Dennis Parrent, Carsonville, MI – 18
- Stephen Snider, Franklin, KY – 18
- Michael Starkey, Brownsburg, IN – 18
- Dan Stokes, Omro, WI – 18
- Myrel Trunnell, Utica, KY – 18
- Jim Carter, Bowling Green, OH – 17
- Sam Dove, Green Ridge, MO – 17
- Randy Ehninger, South Bend, IN – 17
- Gordon England, Williamsburg, PA – 17
- Ken Kau, Palmyra, WI – 17
- Mark Kessler, Crawfordsville, IN – 17
- Hans Kok, Carmel, IN – 17
- Travis Lamb, Quincy, IL – 17
- Mike Lessiter, Brookfield, WI – 17
- Frank Martin, Hallsville, MO – 17
- Julian Pilarski, Posen, MI – 17
- Brian Saionz, Fremont, OH – 17
- Pat W Sheridan, Fairgrove, MI – 17
- Leo Shininger, Defiance, OH – 17
- Gerard Troisi, Millmont, PA – 17
- Ralph Upton, Springerton, IL – 17
- Jules Willott, Mexico, MO – 17
- Paul Winkler, Philpot, KY – 17
- Ron Althoff, Effingham, IL – 16
- John Derham, Faribault, MN – 16
- Matt Eggers, Archbold, OH – 16
- Brett Ehninger, South Bend, IN – 16
- Jan Leaders, Napoleon, OH – 16
- Brent Saionz, Fremont, OH – 16
- George Salrin, Carthage, IL – 16
- John Stigge, Washington, KS – 16
- Randy Vogeler, Garrison, IA – 16
- Anita Wildermuth, Clinton, WI – 16
- John Bruihler, Hawkeye, IA – 15
- Larry Brunner, Kingsville, MO – 15
- Tom Burlingham, Palmyra, WI – 15
- Ronnie Burrus, Jacksonville, IL – 15
- Stephen Fennig, Bryant, IN – 15
- Brian Glaser, Salem, OR – 15
- Bree Greenawalt, Brookfield, WI – 15
- Nelson Hinz, Pickett, WI – 15
- Stephan Janos, Somerville, OH – 15
- Paul Jasa, Lincoln, NE – 15
- Dave Prentiss, Delta, OH – 15
- Jon Reese, Peru, IN – 15
- Nick Starkey, Brownsburg, IN – 15
- Keith Thompson, Osage City, KS – 15
- David Williams, Hughesville, MO – 15
- Ed Winkle, Martinsville, OH – 15
- John Woerner, New Lenox, IL – 15
- Wendell Zimmerman, Hughesville, MO – 15
The No-Till History Series, appearing throughout 2022, is supported by Montag Mfg. For more historical content, including video/multimedia, visit www.No-TillFarmer.com/historyseries.