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In Pursuit of a Three-Crop Rotation

Slimming corn and soybean profit margins has made this veteran no-tiller a big believer in trying alternative crops.

John Steinke looks back at his decision to get out of the hog business five years ago as one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

When the last load of hogs left Steinke’s driveway in the fall of 1993, his plan was to rent more land and cash crop. Being surrounded by residential development, however, the Mukwonago, Wis., no-tiller found it difficult to expand.

Steinke was fortunate to pick up 150 acres when a nearby dairy farmer gave up his rented land. This brought Steinke’s total acreage up to 500. However, he was still looking for a way to diversify his farming operation and find a special niche.

“There’s not much money to be had in corn and soybeans anymore,” says Steinke. “I needed something to make myself unique.”

The following year an opportunity presented itself, but Steinke was reluctant to accept it initially.

From Pigs To Petunias.

“My 70-year-old neighbor had cancer and wanted to sell me his greenhouse and supplies,” Steinke says. “I turned him down twice until he offered to walk me through the first year of it. I don’t think I’d have done it if he hadn’t made me this offer. He probably saved me three years worth of mistakes.”

This chance to diversify was perfect for Steinke’s location.

“Being surrounded by subdivisions and development, we have the market right in our front yard,” says Steinke. “This would be hard to do in the middle of farm country.”

Having gone through four growing seasons of…

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