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Tuscola County, Mich., no-tiller Tom Hess always has one eye on the future. He has never shied away from thinking outside the box either, dating back to his days at Michigan State.
“I was a 19-year-old kid in the back of the classroom,” Hess recalls. “The professors were talking about Roundup Ready corn and soybeans. I raised my hand and said, ‘If we can engineer resistant crops, don’t you think Mother Nature will engineer resistant weeds?’ They pretty much shot me down.”
Now when Hess visits with educators, he asks if they’re teaching about microbiology in their classes. He believes everyone with an ag degree should have a solid understanding of soil microbiology.
“That’s where the game is going,” Hess says. “We need to focus on the livestock in the ground. As Gabe Brown would say, if somebody bulldozes your house every spring, then there’s a heat wave in the summer, and in the winter you’re naked and freezing, you’d need to move or you’re going to die.”
Hess soaks up knowledge from regenerative ag authorities like Brown and No-Till Innovators Ray Archuleta, Loran Steinlage and the late David Brandt. He takes something from everyone and applies it to his farm. Hess is always up for a conversation about conservation, even on vacation.
“I met a farmer when we were at a vineyard in Uruguay,” Hess says. “We started talking about cover crops and how to deal with dry conditions he was experiencing. My wife said, ‘Oh boy, here goes…