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No-Till Providing Efficient ‘Toolkit’ for Solo Farming

Switching to no-till has helped Mike Conner combat erosion, minimize expenses and reduce labor while producing solid yields and protecting the land.

Just 15 minutes from one of the largest wind farms in the country, wind whips across the flat expanses surrounding Otterbein, Ind. Like most kids in the area, third-generation farmer Mike Conner learned conventional farming practices from his dad, including moldboard plowing, discing and cultivating the ground each year. Erosion from tillage and weather went largely undiscussed. 

After college and a 5-year stint as a teacher and basketball coach, Conner came back to  the farm. “I had become pretty conservation minded and was bothered by all the soil erosion I was seeing, so I started learning about no-till. But Dad wasn’t interested in adopting new practices, so I put it on the back burner,” he says.

Getting to No-Till

In 1993, Connor’s father died unexpectedly. In addition, the full-time hired man they had employed for many years ended up leaving the farm that year, having gotten a job at Purdue. So even though Conner had been looking forward to the opportunity to implement no-till on his farm, the sudden death of his father and departure of the hired help left him unsure how to proceed.

“At the time, I was farming about 1,500 acres and I had never worked by myself before. I discovered there were all kinds of jobs on the farm that two guys could do real easy. But for one guy, it was killer,” he says. “That first fall, I would hardly want to get up in the morning because there’d always be some job like that.”

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Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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