Kenny Brinker and his sons look for ways to improve land and water quality. They use no-till farming practices and plant cover crops. It’s a way of ensuring the land remains productive for years to come.
The Brinker family has been farming in the U.S. since the early 1800s. Coming from Germany, over the years the family made its way from the East Coast to the Midwest. They finally settled on a farm in a rural area about 50 miles west of St. Louis.
But when the town began to spread out toward the farm, Brinker moved the family west toward Auxvasse, Mo. Today, Kenny and his sons Travis and Cody operate a row crop and sow unit.
The family plants cereal rye as a cover crop for soil health and water infiltration. Their farm has been used by the University of Missouri for cover crop termination trials. The family also plants acres of corn, soybeans, grain sorghum and sunflowers for food plots for wildlife.
It is the commitment to conservation and land stewardship that has the Brinkers as one of this year’s three finalists for the 2019 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land.
The Brinkers are joined as finalists by fellow hog producers Steve and Sharon Oetting, along with beef producers Joshlin and Addie Yoder.
OPEN COMMUNICATION: Callaway County farmer Kenny Brinker explains how his family farm uses sustainable farming practices to raise soybeans, corn and hogs to a delegation from Japan.
Steve, Sharon and Sean Oetting manage a hog-finishing business and grow corn and soybeans on a farm that has been in their family for 180 years. The family was recognized by state and federal stewardship programs for responsibly preventing soil erosion and properly storing and using their animal waste.
Oetting Homestead Farms of Concordia, Mo., in Lafayette County incorporates precision agricultural technology to ensure fields are fertilized according to crop needs. The Oettings also plant pollinator habitat and nearly 10,000 trees within riparian buffer strips.
Joshlin and Addie Yoder of Leonard, Mo., in Shelby County use minimum tillage or no-till practices on their corn and soybeans fields to control soil erosion and reduce compaction.
Cover crops are used to control weeds and improve soil health and water quality. They measure the effect of cover crops with automated water monitoring stations that collect rain runoff from fields with and without cover crops. This water quality data also informs the couple when to conduct fieldwork and make nutrient applications in relation to rain events.
The Yoders also grow hay and raise beef cattle.
Other than improving their soils and preserving their land for the future, the winner of the award receives $10,000. Sand County Foundation, Missouri Farmers Care, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service present the award.
"These three family farms showcase some of the best in Missouri agriculture and conservation," says Gary Marshall, Missouri Farmers Care chairman. "To be a finalist for this prestigious award requires a focus and discipline in managing the land and water to leave it in a better position for the next generation."
This year's recipient will be announced in February at the Missouri Natural Resources Conference.