Late last year, Rick, Becky,Rod and Amy Hissong of Mercer Vu Farms in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and Pat Janssen of Janssen Beef and Grain in Greensburg, Kansas, were honored for their efforts with the Innovation Award at the Land O'Lakes SUSTAIN Farmer Recognition and Innovation Summit.
Both Janssen Beef and Grain and Mercer Vu Farms embody the spirit of this award, which recognizes farmers that are pioneering new technology, practices and products that improve the sustainability of their operation, community and industry.
The Hissong family’s goal is to continually improve the sustainability of their operation for their children by enhancing their natural resources, increasing profitability and being great stewards of their animals and community.
Thanks to their leadership, Mercer Vu Farms has implemented an innovative and comprehensive manure management system that maximizes the value of their manure, while better protecting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Through their system, the Hissongs eliminate 3,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year – the equivalent of removing 740 cars off the road!
Meanwhile, at Janssen Beef and Grain, Pat Janssen farms corn, soybeans, wheat and grain and forage sorghum in southwest Kansas. Pat began split-applying nitrogen many years ago. His nitrogen is spoon-fed slowly to his crops to help ensure the nutrients remain available for his crop's use and are not leached downward, volatilized upward or moved offsite by wind or water erosion.
Pat is always willing to tell his sustainability story. Last year, he was quoted in his local paper, The Hutchinson News, as saying “The public perception of production agriculture is more like a strip mine than brain surgery. What we are doing is closer to brain surgery.”
Both Mercer Vu and Janssens also put a strong emphasis on partnerships as a way to advance agricultural innovation. For example, Mercer Vu Farms generates additional revenue by selling the carbon credits earned through their manure management system to a partner, Native Energy.
Working with Native Energy, they were able to quantify, verify and sell carbon credits to 11 companies. To offset the upfront capital costs, Native Energy’s Help Build Model sold credits that would be generated over an eight-year period. Traditionally, carbon credits are sold for reductions in GHG that have already occurred. However, through this model, Mercer Vu was able to offset some of their capital costs by selling a large batch of credits that would be generated over time.
Mercer Vu Farms’ comprehensive manure management system benefits the dairy industry because it demonstrates the successful implementation of innovative technology that improves the economic viability of their operation and stewardship of the surrounding environment without compromising cow comfort.
For Janssen, water conservation is a major focus. While serving on the board of the Water Protection Association of Central Kansas (Water PACK) Janssen has worked with Kansas State University, ILS Farms, The Kansas Water Office and several other organizations with the common goal of finding more efficient ways to apply irrigation water. The Dragon Line project on ILS Farms south of Larned, Kansas, is in its third year studying the potential water savings that can be obtained through the use of Mobile Drip Irrigation when compared to conventional application equipment.
On his own farm, Janssen has utilized no-till, strip-till and cover crops to conserve available moisture. These practices also prevent wind erosion on the fragile sandy soils on Janssen’s farm. Through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offered by NRCS, Janssen has invested in remote moisture probes and computerized irrigation scheduling to make the most of every drop of water he pumps. With help from CSP, Janssen has been tissue sampling his crops in season to make certain that his precision mapping, and variable rate fertility programs, are meeting his crops nutritional needs without over-applying.
Rick, Becky and Rod Hissong of Mercer Vu Farms and Pat Janssen of Janssen Farms are both active in Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, which is rooted in the idea that meaningful conservation and 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.