During visits with strip-tillers, it’s not often that I’ll talk with someone who claims they have perfected the practice.
Strip-till is constantly evolving and farmers tend to evolve right along with it, whether it’s tweaking machinery, refining a fertility program or incorporating new technology. Then there’s the unpredictable variability that Mother Nature throws into the mix.
But one bit of advice I gleaned from Mark Bauer at his farm in Faribault, Minn., is that strip-tillers could be a more assertive bunch when it comes to picking and sticking to a methodology.
“I never see strip-tillers come out and make a statement that they know exactly what they're going to do in fall and the next spring and beyond,” he says. “Guys tend to have a backup plan or two systems they run on their farm.”
When Bauer took up strip-tilling a decade ago, he did so without much of a safety net. He rallied investors to back his vision for a largely unproven methodology and “mustered up the courage” to abandon the farm’s other surface tillage equipment. He developed a strip-till unit he could use to build strips in the fall and then freshen them in spring — hence the birth of the Soil Warrior and Environmental Tillage Systems.
Today, Bauer looks back on the gamble fondly, and he’s achieved a comfort level and efficiency with strip-tilling that he says is hard to find. At 56, Bauer is confident that he’ll finish out his farming career using the same two-pass strip-till system he does today.
“I’ve got it figured out. Twenty years from now, I’m confident that whoever runs this farm will be practicing the same methodology,” he says. “Will the machine evolve? Possibly. Will their fertilizer sources evolve? Possibly.”
Change is inevitable, and not every strip-tiller can launch his or her own company to test a methodology. But they can certainly search for the right strategy to suit their farm, and stick with it.
As Bauer says, it starts with building up enough confidence and committing to a strip-till system that will keep your farm sustainable for generations.
What are your tips for growing confidence in a strip-till system? Contact me at 262-782-4480 ext. 441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.