DRILLING DOWN. Drilling all crops on 12.5-inch centers instead of planting on 30-inch centers resulted in dramatic yield increases on Roy Pfaltzgraff’s Haxtun, Colo., farm. Once Pfaltzgraff dialed in the correct seeding population for sunflowers — more than twice the planter rate — he doubled the farm’s previous top yield. Photo by: Roy Pfaltzgraff

No-Tiller Grows 18 Crops in 1 Year to Improve Soil Health

Colorado no-tiller Roy Pfaltzgraff ditches family farm’s break-even tradition, following the data to continuous cropping.

By Roy Pfaltzgraff As interviewed by Martha Mintz

When I came back to our Haxtun, Colo., farm in 2016, my dad agreed to continue doing the bookkeeping if I did the physical labor. Now that we raise 12 or more crops per year, direct market farm products and so much more, he regularly complains he got the short end of the stick. But he complains with a smile. 

The situation was bleak when I finally came home. I had tried to join the farm upon graduating college in 1999, farming for a couple years before the land I leased was sold out from underneath me. Without that land, the home farm couldn’t support me. Back then, the goal in our extreme dryland conditions was to profit once every 5 years to break even on the rest. Dad worked as a part-time minister to get health insurance, and the bank not renewing the loan was a constant worry.

I worked a variety of off-farm jobs for those 13 years, but the most helpful to the farm was my work as an accountant. I helped on the farm where I could, until Dad presented me with a choice. His body was shot. He was exhausted physically and mentally after fighting 45 years just to make ends meet. He told me either I came back to the farm full time, or he’d rent it out to someone else and retire. 

I agreed to come back, but with the stipulation we would not continue…

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