For Kevin Poppel, farming is so much more than just a career. It’s his life’s passion. He grew up watching his grandparents farm and fell in love with the challenges and opportunities that come with growing corn and soybeans. His parents, who both held careers in agriculture, encouraged him to follow his passion when he went to college.
“There is no other career in the world that can give you the satisfaction of planting a seed, watching it grow, cultivating a crop and then being able to reap what you sow,” Poppel said. “From my perspective, it’s a God-sent career.”
Now, the young father of two operates his own corn and soybean farm near Mankato, Minnesota. He also runs a business that helps other farmers implement precision agriculture practices such as custom nitrogen and variable rate applications on their operations.
Integrating precision agriculture techniques is just one of the many things farmers like Poppel do to operate more sustainably on their operations. Precision ag allows growers to leverage efficient placement, practices and technology to ensure a sustainable application for inputs like water, fertilizer and pesticides to their crops. Growers apply precise amounts of inputs to ensure no nutrient or ounce of protection is lost where it shouldn’t be, and a healthy crop is produced. It’s just one of the ways Kevin cares for the environment while growing crops that ultimately may end up in our food system through livestock feed or other food products.
Getting involved with Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN™ has helped Kevin discover additional ways to keep his operation sustainable and to help tell his story of more efficient and sustainable farming. Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN is rooted in the idea that meaningful sustainability is farmer-owned and farmer-driven. By connecting farmers and ag retailers, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN helps bridge the gap and tell the story about farmers who work hard to feed and grow a healthier planet, while meeting consumer demands. The program helps farmers implement smart, sustainable farming practices, products and technologies to maximize nutrient use, reduce soil erosion, minimize carbon emissions and preserve water quality.
“Because we’re part of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, we're doing things we've never done before,” said Kevin. “We're keeping track of every seed, fertilizer, input and really looking at our carbon footprint and some of the things we can control.”
Conservation tillage is one new practice Kevin has implemented on his farm since getting involved with Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. After harvest, farmers leave corn stalks, wheat stubble and other crop residue in the fields until the next growing season. This practice reduces soil erosion and helps enrich the soil, so they can continue to grow healthy crops in the years to come.
Conservation tillage is a relatively new practice in agriculture, and some farmers aren’t familiar with how it helps enrich the soil. The crop residue in Kevin’s fields can make it look like he simply hasn’t finished his harvest. Since adopting conservation tillage on his operation, he has been asked by neighboring farmers if he plans to “finish” tilling his fields, like most others, by turning the soil. This provides a great opportunity to share his stewardship efforts with his fellow farmers and explain how conservation tillage may look unfinished, but it’s actually one of the best ways to ensure soil health and crop nutrients for the coming season.
When it comes down to it, protecting the land is an issue close to Kevin’s heart. His son, Ben, loves farming as much as he does, and he wants to be able to preserve the land so he can pass it down to the next generation.
“There are not many things we farmers love more than the land. The land is our life. It's our legacy. It's everything we have,” Kevin said. “From my standpoint, protecting our most valuable asset is critical, and it’s near and dear to my heart. So, my goal is to leave the land in better shape than how I found it.”