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Do Whatever It Takes

After analyzing production costs, weather expectations and anticipated supply and demand for nine crops, four family members determine each year’s cropping mix.

Few no-till operations keep more detailed accounting records than the Wittman family farm at Culdesac, Idaho.

Their accounting system has paid big dividends in analyzing all aspects of this highly diversified crop, cattle and timber operation, while giving managers the ability to quickly react to ever-changing economic conditions.

Management responsibilities are split among four family members:

  • Dick Wittman handles general management, finances, marketing and oversees logging of the ranch’s forest land.
  • Crops manager Bob Wittman tackles production tactics for 9,000 acres of wheat, barley, lentils, canola, peas, garbanzo beans, mustard, grass seed and hay.
  • Todd Wittman manages the farm’s equipment, conservation programs and oversees specialty crop operations.

Pete Wittman manages the ranch’s 300-cow beef herd and is implementing a new hunting and recreation program.

Proof Needed

 The partners experimented with direct seeding with hoe opener and disc drills for about 15 years. They retired the plows in the mid-’80s when they moved to 100% minimum tillage.

After years of experimenting, they switched to 100% no-till (called direct seeding in the Pacific Northwest) in 1999.

They credit the system with reducing costs, letting them farm more acres in less time, allowing them to qualify for incentives through USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program, decreasing equipment investments and boosting margins.

They use 33- and 45-foot-wide air seeders that no-till paired rows on 9- to 12-inch centers. Harvesting is done with four combines.

The Wittmans have traditionally grown winter and spring wheat, barley, peas and lentils. In good years, wheat can yield 120 bushels per…

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Lessiter_frank

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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