Spring 2019 was not kind to many farmers, and many of my recent conversations have touched on topics like prevented planting, crop insurance and late harvest.

So it was refreshing to experience an overall optimistic environment with more than 300 attendees at the 6th annual National Strip-Tillage Conference in Peoria, Ill. Many assembled with a shared objective of making lemonade out of lemons in 2019, but farmers also sought opportunities to help them rebound in 2020.

That’s not to say economic and political influences were dismissed, but they weren’t a focal point, at least in the presentations, roundtable conversations and hallway discussions I was part of at the event.

During a pre-conference dinner with a small gathering of strip-tillers and other industry influencers, we casually but passionately discussed the inherent benefits of “farming a little ugly.”

Coming from conventional tillage practices, Coolidge, Ariz., strip-tiller Rob Boyle recalls when he used to pulverize the soil, running a disc 5 or 6 times over it, just trying to break that particle size down to nothing.

“We were creating our own nuisance,” he says. “If there’s 50 weeds out on our field, we don’t need to run the disc and disc them down.” After more than 7 years of strip-till, Boyle has evolved to a system where he grows 3 crops per year, mainly for forage, and includes triticale and up to a 15-way cover crop mix in between cash crops to “keep something alive in the ground all the time.

His neighbor’s bare, but perhaps more picturesque fields, are subject to wind erosion (Boyle even noted the Arizona “dust cops” who regulate air quality), and for that reason alone, Boyle is a believer.

Look for more coverage from our 2019 National Strip-Tillage Conference coming soon, and revisit past coverage here.