Not all farmers get involved with water quality and conservation practices because of environmental beliefs. Some simply “back into it” as one Mitchell County farmer says.
Dean Sponheim grows corn and soybeans in Mitchell County.
He says a few years ago, he was dubbed the “accidental conservationist.”
“I started on the economics side. I started strip tilling in 1999 because of economic situation I had. I had some ground that was crusting a lot in the spring after doing spring tillage the strip tilling to care it. This related into better yields, less equipment costs, less input costs, and increased through my bottom line.”
In 1999, water quality wasn’t as big of an issue as it is today.
But Sponheim says farmers were still doing conservation practices.
“I had a stereotype of what a conservation person looked like and it wasn’t me. I didn’t fit that bill and didn’t want to fit that bill. But was we progressed, this type of practice really became a conservation practice and today I call myself a conservationist.”
Sponheim also sows cover crops. He says beware because not all cover crops work the same on each field. Find one that works best for you. He has one last word of advice. “Give it a try and don’t give it a try to fail,” Sponheim says.