Steve Reinhard credits a time when he planted medium red clover behind wheat for turning him onto more cover crops. By leaving a nice, organic growth for the next crop to take advantage of, “it led to experimenting more with different types of cover crops,” Steve says. With the help of his brother Tim, Steve is farming 1,200 acres of mainly corn and soybeans with a few acres of hay in Bucyrus, Ohio. They recently added malting barley to the rotation.
He’s also embraced no-till practices. “On any given year, our corn could be half no-till and half conventional,” Steve says. “In 2019, even as wet as it was, almost 100% of our soybeans were no-till. I’m always trying to do more, conservation-wise.”
Located in a unique location in Crawford County, half of the farm drains to Lake Erie, the other half to the Scioto River. “We’re at the head of the Scioto, and not too far from the Sandusky River that goes to Lake Erie,” Steve explains. “It’s very important we help to manage what we do here, as water travels down to those locations.”
For his efforts, Steve Reinhard was named a 2020 Ohio Master Farmer during a ceremony held March 3 during the Ohio Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada.
Twenty years ago, the farm was divided into 2.5-foot grids for soil sampling, but now some of his acreage is broken down into half-acre grids. “It allows for better application of fertilizer as needed, and we use Climate [Corporation’s] FieldView to help track all of the planting and yield data — getting our nutrients just right,” Steve says.
To stop nutrient loss, he has installed grass waterways and working lands buffers as part of the Ohio Working Lands Buffer Program.
“It’s about conservation — but also, the more fertilizer we lose out of the field, that’s costing us. And soil erosion is a big deal, because it takes forever to make topsoil,” he says.
Steve has about 44 acres enrolled in the Ohio Working Lands Buffer Program that are seeded with alfalfa and a grass-hay mix. “We’re putting up twice as much hay as we did before, but it is helping with the environment, and it could help with the hay shortage we’re having right now.”
The grass waterways were designed by the soil and water conservation office in the Conservation Reserve Program, and Steve says he has two more in the works if weather permits.
Fertilizer application was moved to the spring to try and prevent loss through erosion or heavy rainfall.
Always a farmer
The 1980s were not the best time to return to the farm, but Steve knew that’s where he would eventually find himself.
Steve’s father, Allan, was a first-generation farmer who started out with 80 acres. Sometime in the 1970s, a hog-finishing barn was built. Steve had livestock projects in 4-H and was active in FFA.
After high school, Steve and Tim took off-farm jobs and farmed independently, while helping at the home farm.
Steve was an agriscience teacher for 10 years, served in the Ohio House of Representatives for eight years and was also a Crawford County commissioner. “I always had the intent of coming back to the farm,” he says.
Steve and Tim took over the farm in 2005 after their father passed. While their mother still owns the land, Steve handles most of the management. Tim still works off-farm, but does a lot of maintenance work, making time during the busy months.
A seed business was added in the early 1980s, and while Steve concentrated on improving conservation and increasing acreage, he also added a chemical and fertilizer business to offer a complete program for customers, who he generally describes as friends and neighbors. “Now, we can sit down and talk about seed-to-harvest and what they are going to do to manage their yield and whole program,” he says.
The seed business has grown and now employs two full-time people to help manage it. “That allows for my brother and I to take care of the farming operation.”
Looking to add some cropping diversity, the Reinhards added 70 acres of malting barley in 2018.
Leading the way
Steve has been the voice of Ohio soybean growers for many years. From 2008 to December, he served on the Ohio Soybean Council as secretary, vice chair and chair for the last two years. He’s now an ex-officio member.
“I am proud of the work that’s been done with the Ohio Soybean Council and the different groups I’ve worked with all over the country — whether it be research, crop production or new uses. We’ve had 10 R&D 100 awards [from the R&D 100 Conference].”
OSC recently launched Airable Research Lab, a new business model and brand that will capitalize on current research and find new opportunities to expand the use of soy in household and commercial products. “Somebody with an innovative idea can work with chemists in a lab and conduct a demo to determine if they want to continue down the path to development,” Steve explains.
He is now on the United Soybean Board, serves on an American Farmland Trust committee and the Scioto River working group. He is also a member of the Crawford County Farm Bureau and the Martin Luther Lutheran Church.
Steve is married to Kerrie, and they are raising two children, Nicole and Elizabeth.
“I’m not sure what the girls plan to do, but there may be some nephews and nieces interested in the farm,” Steve says about succession. “It’s too soon to tell, but we’re always looking to add to the farm if we can.”
For the next generation of farmers, whether it be on his farm or not, Steve offers this advice passed on to him from his father … “There are only so many opportunities to get things done. Take advantage of them, but don’t rush too fast — it can backfire on you. Whether it’s expansion or planting the crop in the spring, if the conditions are not right and you push the envelope, it can harm you in the end. And pay attention to what farmers are doing around you. … They might have already made mistakes they can help you avoid.”