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Serving: OH

Brill farm leaves conservation legacy for new tenants

Rick and Janice Brill are 2019 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Award winners.

It’s a new beginning for Brill-View Farms. The stewardship of the ground is changing, but Rick and Janice Brill are confident the new tenants, a three-person partnership, will not only continue their long-term commitment to conservation on their 1,800 acres, but also grow it.

Rick has farmed all his life, starting off with his dad, Kenneth, who bought the farm, near Wellington, Ohio, in 1945, and milked 13 cows. He’s particularly proud of the progression of the farm, and also the transition into conservation-minded practices.

“It’s how we make our living; it’s only right that we take care of it,” Rick says, while also noting the need to protect water for everyone. “It’s just like being a livestock producer; some people think we mistreat cows, but they don’t understand — that’s how we make our living. So, why would we do that? It’s the same thing with the soil; you get out of it what you put in it. If you don’t put anything in it — the right way — you’re not going to get results.”

Janice adds, “He always tries to leave the ground in a better place, with special attention to crop rotation.”

Because of their commitment to conservation, the Brills are being recognized with a 2019 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Award, to be presented at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 19 during Farm Science Review.

Starting out

Just a couple years before graduating high school, Rick, his dad and brother-in-law formed a partnership and were milking 60 cows and farming 400 acres. The partnership dissolved, with Rick buying out his brother-in-law in the early 1980s, but he continued to farm with his dad, establishing Brill-View Farms. He took sole management in 1985 and continued to grow the operation, milking just short of 500 cows for more than two decades while raising another 500 head of young stock.

“Some people look at manure as a liability, but it’s really an asset if it’s managed correctly,” Rick says. He has followed a nutrient management plan and applied manure according to soil samples for many years.

His dad was a firm believer in tiling ground and started a tiling business with Rick’s uncles in the early 1970s, before getting out in the mid-1980s as the farm economy went sour.

“I spent years growing up picking up rocks, putting in tile and cleaning fencerows,” Rick says of the Lorain County farm. “Of the ground we own, 75% is systematically tiled, and the rest is randomly tiled.”

The farm contains about 90 acres of woodlot and is on a 10-year cutting rotation, using a logging company. “Recently, we cut several maples because disease was coming in,” Rick says. “We’ve also harvested trees to buy additional farmland.”

An early adopter of grid sampling, all lime has been variable-rate applied for the last 15 years, according to soil samples. “Instead of the standard 3-ton-per-acre, this acre might get 4 tons, while the next might get zero,” Rick says.

All fertilizer is also variable-rate applied, with fertilizer in the last five years being applied according to both soil samples and yield data. “The 200-bushel corn spot gets more than the 50-bushel corn spot,” Rick says. He has been working with Sunrise Cooperative and agronomist Keith Deering to adhere to the 4R's (the right source, right rate, right time and right place) with both fertilizer and manure applications. All agrochemicals are contained in a facility built in 2012.

For the last several years, ryegrass has been planted on corn silage ground and used as forage in the spring, before the ground is replanted to corn or beans. “It’s important to protect corn silage fields with fodder,” Rick says. He has followed a crop rotation for 25 years.

Semiretirement

Several years ago, filter strips were added along all ditches, on three different creeks. “Now that I have more time, and with the new tenants, we’re going to do some additional work with those filter strips,” Rick says, eluding to the difficult decision made last fall to semiretire. He thought he’d farm until he was 70, but decided to trim that down.

Through the years, the farming operation progressively grew to 1,800 acres, including 1,000 acres of owned farmland. “I had an opportunity to work with three gentlemen who formed a partnership to take over our operation,” he says. “And last fall’s wetness took a toll on me. I am confident the new tenants will be great stewards of the land,” Rick says, adding he’s excited to see the farm transition from his minimal tillage to no-till.

Last fall’s decision was followed by last April’s sale of the farm’s 150 milking cows. “He loved his cows; it was a tough decision,” Janice says. “With the milk prices not coming up in the foreseeable future, we couldn’t see going in debt to keep on milking at our age.”

Rick adds, “Plus, our facility has seen better days. We needed to either step up to the plate and invest several thousand dollars, or step out.”

The decision to sell the cows was made once before in 2009. “At that time, we still had 400 heifers, so it was only about 10 months when we decided to go back to milking with the goal of only milking 150 and, once we got to that point, we started selling 2-year old springers,” he explains.

At one time, the farm had 13 full-time employees, but it is now down to one — who has been with the operation for close to 40 years. “The hardest part about the whole decision was the impact on employees,” Rick says.

“But, we’re not going to sell our ground; it will likely pass to the next generation,” says Rick, referring to daughter Jess.

He advises new farmers to stay on the edge of technology, with conservation at the forefront. “Be an avid reader, study the industry and keep well educated on what is going on.”

The Brill family

The family. Rick and Janice Brill have one daughter, Jess.

The farm. Up until last year, the Brills were farming 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa, and milking 150 cows. They have since sold the milking cows and are now raising 200 calves and heifers. They are farming 70 acres of hay, 70 acres of wheat and 60 acres of corn silage, and a new tenant is now farming the rest of the acreage.

Outreach and education. Brill-View Farms has hosted many farm tours for school groups, the Lorain County (Ohio) Farm Bureau and dairy groups through their Holstein association

Community activities. Rick is a member of the Lorain County Farm Bureau, Sunrise Cooperative board of directors, Lorain County Dairy Auction Committee; and a past Cooperative Resources International and Northern Ohio Breeders Association board director.

 

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