What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Stewarding The Birthplace Of No-Till

Sharing and learning are still cornerstones for the Young family, who planted the first commercial no-till field in southern Kentucky 50 years ago.

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NAME: John Young

LOCATION: Herndon, Ky.


ACRES: 3,200; 4,500 harvested

CROPS: Corn, soybeans and winter wheat

My father, Harry Young, wasn’t a shy fellow. If he was going to do something, he’d do it out in the open and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s why he planted what’s believed to be the very first commercial no-till field in the U.S. right on the highway, not back in the woods. And there’s a historical marker there to commemorate that original 7/10 of an acre, planted in 1962.

I was only 11 at the time. The first crop was corn, and that field has been in no-till ever since.

Dad worked with Shirley Phillips, a University of Kentucky agronomist, to try and perfect the system over the years. While Dad passed away in 1988, the fifth and sixth generations of his family — myself and my son, Alexander — continue to no-till the farm to this day.

This spring will be the 50th no-till crop to be planted in that original field. When Dad first started no-tilling, my mind was on other things like football and basketball, but I do remember there being a lot of activity over the next few years.

People would come by to look at the field, and there were tours and a lot of phone calls. Curiosity ran high.

It all started with a neighbor and county agent, Reeves Davie, who urged Dad to go with him and…

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John Young

Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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