One of the challenges we all face is knowing when to allow those we care about to fail. Nobody wants to make mistakes, and it’s human nature to want to right a wrong, sometimes before it even occurs. 

We live in a very corrective society with people often looking for opportunities to criticize failure or assess blame. But quite often, the best advice comes from those who have made mistakes and learned from them. 

Strip-tillers are no strangers to this scenario, taking risks and pushing the envelope with equipment setups, fertilization strategies, technology adoption and cover cropping methods. Not every experiment is successful, but as you’ve probably heard before, we learn more from our losses than our wins.

It’s been a difficult few years in many respects, and I appreciate the candid conversations I’ve had with strip-tillers as they’ve shared their experiences, both positive and negative. As I assembled the program for the 6th annual National Strip-Tillage Conference (which accompanies this edition), several of our speakers noted the importance of reinforcing the reasons why farmers strip-till.  

Ben Pederson, who transitioned his Lake Mills, Iowa, corn and soybean operation to 100% strip-till in 2012, has looked to be a progressive advocate for the creative opportunities — both economic and environmental — that strip-till can offer. 

“With strip-till, we need to be thinking bigger and helping consumers understand how doing things differently can make a substantial impact on the environment and long-term food security…”

“With strip-till and other conservation-minded practices, we need to be thinking bigger and helping consumers understand how doing things differently can make a very substantial impact on the environment and long-term food security,” he says.

As we individually introduce our lineup on leading up to the Aug. 1-2 event in Peoria, Ill., a common theme I picked up during conversations with speakers is their mindset of serving as a mentor, and showing a willingness to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly with strip-till adoption. 

There’s been a mix of all three on farms lately, and there are lessons to be learned from each, whether it’s tapping into the economic potential of organic strip-till like Frankton, Ind., strip-tiller Mike Shuter, understanding the sometimes tedious trial and error that goes into achieving high-yielding strip-tilled corn like Montezuma, Kan., strip-tiller Josh Koehn, or managing weeds to make wide-row strip-till work like Bob Recker of Cedar Valley Innovation in Waterloo, Iowa.

While many strip-tillers have confidence in their system, they also have a humble nature to know their approach isn’t necessarily the right one for their neighbor or the only one for them. Being proactive in not only seeking out new ideas, but sharing them as well, is key to being a smarter manager on your farm operation.