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Lessons from Dad

family farm lessons
Four sons led to a lot of farm lessons from Dad (Bill) and Mom (Jo Ella). I’m on the far left, next to brothers Craig, Rob and Tom. Our Iowa Century Farm continues under Tom’s leadership.
My dad, a good 1960s to 1990s Iowa farmer who is now nearing the end of life, taught me some great life lessons along with a hard-work ethic.

The best lesson my dad drilled into me was the value of thinking for myself and not simply following a group. Yes, I failed at times and I’ll never forget the “extra” farm work consequences I earned for missing curfew by following the thoughts of a cast of characters.

Fortunately, my group think misadventures gave me a larger perspective and helped me better relate to different groups. I had friends from all socio-economic classes that inhabited small town America back then. Such lessons carry forward today as we work to understand and accept Somali neighbors in our suburb.

Call it compassion or empathy, or listening and trying to understand. It’s also a trait taught in journalism school, along with news value, finding the truth, curiosity and healthy skepticism. As my dad says, too many people either never learned this lesson, or they forgot how to practice it. Going through life not thinking for yourself and only listening to one group is not good, he says.

He’s right. No one is perfect. I’m further reminded of this fact based on emails I receive from some farmers who won’t accept facts and science because their group says not to believe.

Bottom line, we can and must do better. For example, agriculture has a water quality problem that won’t be solved by a minority of farmers. Science clearly shows that less tillage, no-till, cover crops and other practices used in combination can lead to less erosion, healthier soils and cleaner water. Some farmers choose not to believe this science. They are proud of their excessive tillage group. Other farmers, who deal with the same conditions, make these sound science practices work.

One example exists in our story on prairie strips. Such CRP strips can cut soil loss by 95%, N runoff by 84%, P runoff by 90%, and much more.

Regarding cover crop value and nitrogen use, check out our story on Indiana farmer Mike Starkey. His cover crop advice due to failures is excellent, and his 30-bu. yield advantage when applying two 60-lb. passes in-crop compared to applying 120 lbs. per acre in a single early pass makes for good reading.

Read about more science in “Value of split nitrogen” that highlights research regarding the need, or not, for late-season N.

I wish you a successful winter planning season as we close out 2017.

I sincerely thank you for reading, for viewing more valuable content on, for subscribing to our newsletters, and for being willing to Think Different.

And most of all, thanks, dad!

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