Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Carol Stender for Agri News.
Stan Patzer’s father would probably be surprised at the near no-till system Stan, Stan’s son, Tim, and nephew Todd use on their Marietta, Minn., farm.
"My dad would be appalled if you didn’t plow everything," Stan says.
But Stan and his late brother, Harold, made the transition and the family has seen the benefits to their land and to wildlife.
The no-till system and tree plantings, buffer strips and covers crops earned them the Lac Qui Parle County conservationist honors. They are also one of eight finalists for the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation District Outstanding Conservationist award.
The family farm was nearly organic when his father farmed, Stan says. His father grew oats, corn and sweet clover, to name a few crops, and didn’t use commercial fertilizer.
Stan took over in 1969 and worked with his brother Harold, who died in 1995. Together, they made the transformation from intensive tillage to minimum tillage and eventually to no-tillage.
It was a gradual move over the last 25 years, he says.
They have some sandy and some highly errodable acres. When his father plowed, there was a lot of erosion.
"There are some farms that were virtually devastated by erosion and tillage over a 60- to 70-year period," Stan says. "When you have a digger in the field, that soil doesn’t move uphill. It moves downhill."
The switch to a no-till system benefits the soil and results in less use of tractors.
"We feel our yields are very competitive," he says. "The erosion control and the money we don’t spend on fuel and machinery are some of the reasons why we do this. We spend fewer hours in the field and that gives us more time to spend with family and to pursue other activities."
Stan, Tim and Todd raise around 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans and a small amount of no-till wheat on some of the sandier ground, he says.
The Patzers have left natural buffers between cropland, livestock and surface water. They’ve planted farmstead shelterbelts, food plots and have installed terraces.
Their farming practices have developed good wildlife habitat. Father and son, Stan and Tim, are outdoorsmen. Each has his own outfitting business in South Dakota.