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COVER CROP. This flat no-till field of beardless barley contains a mix of turnips, radishes, oats and forage sorghum. Despite unseasonably wet conditions in early 2024, the cover crop provides ample moisture infiltration to avoid standing water. Dan Crummett

30 Years of No-Till Keeps Farm Financially Stable

Economic turmoil of the 1980s changed operation to 100% no-till, reducing labor, saving soil & enabling crop diversity

When Rick Jeans and his dad, Don, began experimenting with no-till in the late 1980s, they were setting in motion a management scheme that would allow Jeans to continue farming about 3,000 acres of cropland in Tonkawa, Okla., while managing a 100-cow commercial Angus herd with his wife, 1 employee and seasonal part-time help more than 30 years later

Today, Rick and Dianne’s farm is 100% no-till. They grow wheat, grain sorghum and soybeans in rotation with cover crops in the heavy loam soils of the Duck Creek watershed in far north-central Oklahoma. Jeans Farms spans 20 miles from tip to tip, but 1,000 contiguous acres is located a mile from the couple’s home just north of Tonkawa in Kay County.

“After my dad passed in 2021, I was left with the land that he was farming, which leaves us with a total of 3,600 acres including 600 acres of native pasture,” Jeans says. “Of that, Dianne and I own only 2 quarters of land and the 5 acres our house sits on. The rest is leased property, and many of those acres are with landlords who we’ve had for many years. By leasing, we’ve avoided the high cost of land ownership.”

Decade of Change

Financial stability has been a major goal for Jeans since he first began farming on his own in 1981, the same year shaky financing in Oklahoma’s Oil Patch caused a massive bust in the state’s economy at the same time that national inflation rates were…

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Dan Crummett

Dan Crummett has more than 35 years in regional and national agricultural journalism including editing state farm magazines, web-based machinery reporting and has an interest in no-till and conservation tillage. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Oklahoma State Univ.

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