“The farm economy is a tough life to make ends meet,” says Frankfort, South Dakota farmer Jamie Johnson.
Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t need to be reminded. Farming has always been hard work and with soil degradation, sagging commodity prices and input costs on the rise, it doesn’t appear to be getting any easier.
Despite this, there is hope. In a time where many operations are struggling to break even, the Johnsons and scores of other producers have found a way to thrive – even in the midst of extreme weather conditions.
“We’ve been in a pretty severe drought the last few years,” says Jamie’s husband and fourth-generation farmer, Brian Johnson. “We still ended up with above average crops. With our system, we’re able to withstand the ups and downs in the weather so that we can keep farming.”
The Johnson’s system goes against the grain of conventional farming. They run a diversified row cropping and cow/calf operation that emphasizes soil health and incorporates no-till, cover crops, livestock integration, and diverse rotations. Conventionally, such practices have been thought to be nice for the environment, but questionable for your bottom line. The Johnsons have found that’s just not the case.
“The crop diversity [we’ve incorporated] helps keep things even as far as income and expenses. When we plant wheat, we’ve got income in August instead of just having corn and soybeans and then getting your check in the fall,” says Jamie. “And by increasing the cattle production, you get a bigger calf check and can sell calves or bred heifers. If you put more emphasis in more areas, you make the economics work
In today’s age, its arguably more important than ever for a farmer to diversify their income. What the Johnsons have discovered, however, is that, in doing so, they also create more resilient soils that can produce year in and year out despite extreme weather conditions.
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