Conservation is at the core at Waidelich Farms as Greg Waidelich has been working with the soil and water conservation districts in Fairfield and Pickaway counties for almost 40 years to implement a vast range of practices to protect, stabilize and enhance natural resources.
His farm in Amanda, Ohio, has grown from its meager 34-acre beginning to just over 1,700 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and cover crops. But it hasn’t been just growth. It’s been calculated growth with an eye on profitability, but also on long-term sustainability for the future.
For Waidelich, success is leaving things better than when they were first obtained. “I don't think you can measure success monetarily,” he says.
And he wants to see others succeed. “As the district conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for the past 17 years in Fairfield County, I have witnessed Greg Waidelich demonstrate his strong stewardship ethic by his actions on the land, as well as his encouragement to fellow farmers,” David Libben says.
For his multilevel commitment to agriculture and conservation, Waidelich has been named a 2021 Ohio Master Farmer, nominated by Nikki Drake, district manager and engineering technician with the Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District, and supported by Libben, as well as Shelly Steele, Pickaway SWCD engineering technician.
In a non-COVID-19 year, Waidelich would have been awarded at the Ohio Conservation Tillage & Technology Conference in March, which is now being offered virtually. For those tuning in, videos produced by sponsor Brownfield Ag News (see below) will highlight the winners at the end of each day March 9-11.
Not much for publicity, Waidelich said he was kind of shocked to be named a Master Farmer. “I probably would have never agreed to this if wasn’t for Nikki Drake, who I have worked with for several years,” he says.
“She has helped design a lot of these conservation practices I have implemented on the farm. She has been excellent to work with, as well as several of the people that preceded her in that office. They have educated me extremely well.”
Waidelich also points to Libben as having great influence with cover crops and pollinator crops.
To further share the award, Waidelich also credits Dave Brandt, a 2016 Ohio Master Farmer who farms 1,150 acres in Fairfield County and is often the go-to guy and guest speaker at functions regarding soil health.
“I’ve known Dave for several years, and he’s really instilled in me some of these conservation practices," Waidelich says.
Hooked on farming
Waidelich comes from a farm family and took a few college courses in animal science and ag economics, but admits that he really didn’t know that he wanted to farm until his uncle got hurt in a car wreck in 1972 and could no longer run his operation.
“I had the opportunity to rent some of his acreage,” says Waidelich, who had graduated high school three years earlier. “And then I just kind of just fell into it and discovered it’s what I really wanted to do. I used my father’s equipment and farmed 34 acres, and it just kept growing. Farming is really addictive. If you love what you do, it's not work.”
When he first started farming, he also worked full time on a factory assembly line in Columbus for a couple of years. “I did not like to be inside five days a week,” he says.
Waidelich met his now wife of 50 years, Linda Noggle, in high school, but it was really his junior and senior year of high school where he had work release at a local elevator that they would make a connection.
“Her mother was the secretary there, so she would come and pick up her mother at 5 o'clock every day,” Waidelich says.
They married in 1971 and have two married children, their son, Todd (Paweena Manotipya), who owns a landscaping business a few miles away, and daughter, Nikki (Jay) Gatens, who with her husband are small animal veterinarians in the area.
“I like the fresh air and watching things grow — it gives you a feeling of accomplishment,” says Greg, who credits his dad, Gail, for helping him early on. “He was kind of a conservative farmer. He was slow to change, but I learned a few things from college, and we tried them on the farm. Once he saw the benefits, he was all for it, especially because he was very conscientious about erosion.”
Back in those days, Waidelich recalls four-year rotations and pasture, wheat and hayfields. “We had more crops growing in the fields in the fall, winter and spring,” he says. “It held the soil in place, and there were more earthworms — more life in the soil than you see today.”
Using conservation practices, cover crops and crop rotations have helped restore the soil on the farm. “Growing winter wheat is a big advantage, although a lot of people have given up on it because it’s a food-grade product,” Waidelich says.
Preventing erosion is paramount. “Back when everything was mold board plowed, I saw the effects of clean tillage and the erosion it allows,” Waidelich says. “We live in an area where the ground is rolling, and I knew I had to do something to stop it.
"So, I read a lot of magazines — one was probably Ohio Farmer — and with the conservation district and NRCS, I started trying some of those practices. If you have more topsoil, you can raise better crops, and better crops makes you more money. I just didn't like to see my money washing down the creek.”
His practices include installing chemical containment, two livestock pipeline/watering facilities, 16 subsurface drainage systems, 40 grassed waterways, two water sediment and control basins, two grade stabilization structures (rock chute and pipe drop), stream crossing and variable-rate fertilizer.
“He also uses other best management practices, like cover crops, to achieve the goal of improving the land, not only for his crops, but for future generations,” Drake says.
Waidelich has installed projects through USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and he is enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program.
His farming practices were noticed through the years as elderly, retiring farming neighbors agreed to sell to him, helping him expand.
He’s committed to the farming community, and that was one reason he served on the Amanda Township Zoning Board of Appeals and then the zoning board.
Up to date
Waidelich says the addition of a yield monitor has been extremely beneficial. “We've always suspected dips in yield in certain areas, but with a yield monitor, it's all there in black and white,” he says. “It really gives you something more to think about how to improve your yield, how to improve your operation.”
He also likes autosteer, which allows him to work more hours in the day. “It’s nice to be a little less fatigued and manage your time better,” he says. “When I grew up, we didn't have computers, so it's been a challenge for me to do this, but I’ve had some good help with friends and family.”
He gets the work done with the help of one full-time employee, Floyd Thomas, who has been with the operation for 15 years, and some seasonal help.
To help market his crop, over the years Waidelich has added to the existing 12,000-bushel bin at the farm he bought in the early 1990s, including several bins — two 65,000-bushel, a 35,000-bushel, a 25,000-bushel and a 15,000-bushel.
He’s not really interested in expanding the farm at this point in his life, just continuing to fine-tune current operations. He’s looking forward to making time to enjoy his 6-year-old granddaughter, Gabby — time that was scarce when his own children and two adult grandsons were little.
“Farming brings you close to nature — the fresh air, sun shining, plants growing, wildlife roaming,” Waidelich says. “I’m passionate about what I’m doing, and I’ve dedicated a good portion of my life to doing it the best way possible. I’m committed to continuing that mission, while making a little more time for family.”
Master Farmer profile
Name: Greg Waidelich
Farm: Waidelich Farms, corn, soybeans, wheat, cover crops
Nominator: Nikki Drake, district manager and engineering technician with the Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District
Ag and Community Leadership: 2003 Fairfield SWCD Cooperator of the Year; Amanda Township Zoning Board and Board of Appeals.