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What I've Learned from No-Tilling: Clearing a Path for Ever-Improving Production

John Sherman Jr. constantly searches out information on practices that can push his no-till productivity ever higher.

I'm a sweeper in my local curling club. It’s my job is to manipulate the ice, helping guide the stone down the perfect path to its ultimate target. It sounds a bit like farming, right? From the moment we put seeds in motion we’re constantly working to provide them a clear, smooth path to harvest.

Path smoothing is far from easy these days as we all know. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing for even one ‘normal’ year. Maybe around April 20th the temperature would start warming up. We’d start planting April 25th and be done by the middle of May. Rains would come when they’re supposed to and not be torrential. Everything would get done roughly on time. I don’t think I’ve seen years like that since I was a kid and I highly doubt there are many more coming. With that in mind, flexibility (and clearing an increasingly cluttered path) must be the plan.

 Change is the standard around here. Part of that started back when I first got into no-tilling, which is right about when I started farming myself. My father had 1,100 acres he farmed conventionally. When he retired, I took over those acres. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money or the credit at the time to buy his equipment when it sold.

Time also was in short supply. I was raising farrow-to-finish hogs, so making four trips over the field to prepare for planting would have been a tall order. Instead, I…

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Martha Mintz

Since 2011, Martha has authored the highly popular “What I’ve Learned About No-Till” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002.


Growing up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana, Martha is a talented ag writer and photographer who lives with her family in Billings, Montana.

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