Sit around a table for just a little while with Joey Hanson, and it becomes evident that running short on personal energy isn’t a problem for the Elk Point, S.D., producer.
His eyes dance with enthusiasm and his voice burns with excitement as he talks about farming.
And it’s a good thing that he’s full of energy because the 32-year-old South Dakota State University graduate is a very busy man. He works a full-time job as an agronomist with Valley Ag Supply in Gayville, S.D. He also operates his Union County farm – one he describes as “smaller” when compared to that of many producers – with his older brother, Jamie, who’s 35. Throw in raising his 3-year-old son, Austin, and his high-energy requirement becomes obvious.
“We call ourselves night-time farmers,” Hanson said, noting that his brother also works a full-time job as a precision ag technician at Sioux International in Sioux Falls.
Much of the younger Hanson’s enthusiasm stems from being back in the place where he knows he belongs. After graduating from SDSU, he worked for about four years in the ethanol industry with Poet in Mitchell, S.D. He said he liked that job a lot, but he continued to feel the pull of the family farm. Then his dad died in a farm accident in 2006, and he felt an even sharper tug to return to his roots.
Now, “I just love raising family back on the farm,” he said.
Hanson, who has agreed to serve this year as the Tri-State Neighbor’s crop watcher for southeastern South Dakota, said the brothers plant a 50-50 mix of corn and soybeans. However, they arrive at that mix by planting two-thirds corn and one-third soybeans one year, then reversing the allotment in a regular rotation the following year. This year, it’s two-thirds soybeans. Irrigatation is available to them on much of the land, which proved to be a godsend during the 2012 drought.
The new adventure for this growing season involves the purchase of machinery to develop a custom strip-tillage service.
Hanson sees it as a sound business venture and one that suits his farming philosophy. He said conventional tillage is the ruling practice in his area, but he leans toward a new direction.
“My passion is in agronomics and soils,” he said, referring to his coursework at SDSU and his Valley Ag job. “Looking at the need for long-term sustainability of agriculture, and just from a stewardship viewpoint, I asked myself, ‘What if you tried custom strip-tilling?’”
He said that, although tradition would stand in the way of a more radical shift to no-till practices in his area, he’s had “some very positive conversations with growers” about the potential of strip-tilling.
“The efficiency can triple with fertilizer placement” over broadcasting, he said. With growers facing increasing pressure about chemical runoff into waterways, Hanson knows such efficiency is a strong selling point.
He’s aiming to phase in about 5,000 acres of strip-tillage business by the fall, so a busy man will become even busier. But not to worry – he has plenty of energy to get it all done.