While their farms are nearly 400 miles apart, Nick and Tara Meyer of Meyer Dairy LLC in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and Matt and Tina Rezac of Rezac Farms in Weston, Nebraska, share a few things in common.
First, their farms are both award-winning. Late last year, the Meyers and Rezac were each honored with the Outstanding Sustainability Award at the Land O'Lakes SUSTAIN Farmer Recognition and Innovation Summit.
Nick, Tara and Matt are also united in the ways that they prioritize on-farm conservation and the best practices they share in common, including:
1. They know soil health is key to a healthy farm.
Matt and Tina have been using reduced-till and no-till practices for the past 12 years on their farm, which reduces soil disturbance and builds organic matter. They have recently added cover crops to their rotation, which help absorb carbon, reduce erosion and increase biological activity in the soil.
Meanwhile, Nick and Tara work with their crop consultant to use grid soil sampling to improve the utilization of nutrients from manure they use as an organic fertilizer on their fields. By applying fertilizer precisely according to the grid results, they minimize nutrient runoff, use the manure resources as efficiently as possible, and rely less on commercial fertilizer. They are also experimenting with cover crops to see what works best for their farm.
2. They use data and analytics to track their progress and adapt quickly.
Matt and Tina have incorporated irrigation management technology on their farm to improve his water, nutrient and energy use efficiency. They use soil moisture probes in their fields and a weather modeling tool to track how plants are using water. They also worked with their ag advisor to create variable-rate fertilizer prescriptions that help him place nutrients only where they’re needed – which saves them money and avoids runoff.
Nick and Tara have installed Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) on their vacuum pump, the milk transfer pump and to run their fans in the freestall barns. The fans speed up and slow down based on temperature and wind speeds, which keeps the cows comfortable while being more energy efficient.
Nick and Tara are also part of the Discovery Farm Network and work with the Minnesota Agriculture Water Resources Center to conduct research measuring nutrient and sediment flows on their farm, with the goal of improving water quality.
3. They share their story with their neighbors and best practices with fellow farmers.
Matt and Tina's commitment to sustainability and efficiency has made them an invaluable source of information. By participating in field trials and testing new products and strategies, they generates data and best practices that all of their peers can use to make constant improvements at their individual operations.
Nick and Tara regularly host field days and tours on their farm. Whether it is the Discovery Farm Network water monitoring equipment, their manure solids separator, the various efficiency upgrades they have made to their farm, or the ways they maintain cow comfort, it’s clear to all that sustainability is one of their top priorities.
4. They rely on trusted advisers for counsel.
For Matt and Tina, it’s their ag advisor at Frontier Cooperative in Mead, Nebraska. The Meyers work closely with their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office and the Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District.
Nick, Tara and Matt and Tina are all active in Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, which is rooted in the idea that meaningful sustainability is owned and driven by farmers.
A successful Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN means a healthier planet, with dramatic improvements in soil health and water and air quality; healthier rural and farm economies, with more money in the pockets of farmers; and stronger relationships between consumers and those who work hard to feed them.