One of the challenges of strip-tilling is that there’s not always a next-door neighbor handy to bounce fertilizer-application ideas off of, or discuss residue-management strategies.

But 2 weeks ago in Iowa, a farm-equipment dealership put on a daylong strip-till event to let farmers share their philosophies with one another in an informal setting.

Strip-tiller Dave Nelson, co-owner of Brokaw Supply Co., in Fort Dodge, Iowa, organized the first-time event to promote the value of strip-till to new farmers and reinforce the benefits to veterans.

Nelson estimates that about 80% of the 65 attendees were experienced strip-tillers and the other 20% were interested in starting this fall or next spring.

“There were no commercials, no hidden agendas,” Nelson says. “It was a true peer group.”

The event featured presentations by Jim Gillespie, director of Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Division of Soil Conservation, and University of Minnesota crops and tillage educator Jodi DeJong-Hughes, who spoke about soil health and productivity with strip-till.

But Nelson and attendees say the most rewarding part of the day was the open forum, which extended well beyond the 3:30 p.m. end time.

“I had 40 index cards with questions ranging from corn-on-corn residue management to what’s the best cover crop,” Nelson says. “We didn’t get done until 5 p.m. so I know it was a good day.”

While interest in strip-till continues to grow, it remains a niche practice. It never hurts to get a diverse group of farmers with a range of perspectives in the same room. Certainly, some are going to be set in their ways, but others may be looking for an answer to a problem they can’t solve.

As Nelson says, “You get 65 people in a room and you’re going to have 66 different opinions on what strip-till means to them.”

But being able to ask those personal questions face-to-face can be an opportunity to take a strip-tiller’s operation to the next level.

Nelson acknowledges that his role was largely as a facilitator, but he also used the event to develop a network of strip-tillers who can keep in touch on areas of concern or topics of interest.

Brokaw set up a profile for each attendee and plans to circulate a database within the group so the answer to a burning question could only be a phone call or e-mail away in the future.

Nelson says a second strip-till day could be in the works for this summer and perhaps another one in the winter. By then, a whole new batch of questions — and potential answers — will have surfaced from strip-tillers who can share what they’ve learned in-person.

What kinds of topics would you like to see tackled by Strip-Till Strategies? Send me an e-mail or call (262) 782-4480, ext. 441.