Melvin Steck 10.2 homepage

‘Boutique’ Farm Yields Big-Time No-Till Savings and Success

97-year-old Melvin Steck has flirted with 300-bushel corn and hit 70-bushel soybeans with homemade equipment, common sense and a long-term commitment to no-till.

These days, Melvin Steck doesn’t go to many farm shows, field days or plot tours and isn’t the type to sell his program or philosophies to others. But this 97-year-old no-tiller will talk plenty about how the soil works.

Steck’s farm is successful due to mellow, healthy soils that helped him raise 70-bushel soybeans and 280-bushel corn in recent years, which observers say is almost unheard of in his area of central Ohio. 

Melvin and his son, Doug, no-till 285 acres of corn and soybeans near Williamsport, with Doug holding down a job in the trucking industry as well. Melvin’s family has been on the current farm since 1961, but Melvin started farming with his father when he was 8.

It’s a Start

When he was 19, Melvin was planting corn with a two-row horse-drawn International planter, which he used from 1936 to 1943. After World War II the family could buy a four-row planter, but they didn’t have the option of spraying until the 1940s when 2,4-D became available. Steck tried reducing tillage with corn around 1950 but he didn’t have a way to control weeds.

The Stecks had livestock, sheep and hogs until as recently as 20 years ago. The family lost a large part of their operation during the 1980s as well due a major hailstorm that shredded their corn and soybeans, in addition to low crop prices and high interest rates they were already facing.

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GETS IT DONE. Melvin Steck used a cultivator, Martin row cleaners

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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