Sheboygan River Progressive Farmers double cover crops in 4 years

Sheboygan River Progressive Farmers

Sheboygan River Progressive Farmers (SRPF) members have a mission: keeping soil where it belongs – under crops. The message of improving soil health and water quality was highlighted during the farmer-led group’s annual meeting.

Featured at the Feb. 18 meeting were cover crop experts and crop industry specialists who shared information on improving farm conservation practices and programs farmers can get involved in.

Questions to ask when thinking about post-harvest cover crops include, “What are your goals for this cover crop?” Keith Berns, co-owner and sales manager of Green Cover, said. “By answering the ‘why’ it will help determine what species will go into your mix.”

Berns has experimented with over 100 cover crop types and mixes through his seed business. He provided numerous examples of what a farmer’s “why” could be, including boosting the biology of the soil, erosion prevention, weed control, nitrogen fixation, nutrient cycling and availability, beneficial and pollinator insect habitat and forage, compaction and infiltration issues or supplemental forage.

One of the many goals Berns helps farmers with is erosion prevention. He is a firm believer that having his ground covered is the best policy.

“We don’t like to see our soil unless we are looking for it,” Berns said. “If we can see it, then so can the water and wind, and it can be washed and blown away to places that we don’t want it to be.”

Berns shared that cover crops are the perfect opportunity to have great plant diversity. By using his free online SmartMix calculator, farmers have the opportunity to play with different cover crop mixes based on their zip code, temperature and farm goals.

Continued growth is a common theme in the Sheboygan River region. SRPF has grown from 25 farmer members to 31 from its inception in 2018. Steve Richter, director of agriculture strategies for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), shared the SRPF 2021 member survey results. The practice of planting cover crops has nearly doubled since 2018, having 7,288 acres covered by 29 of the SRPF members. No-till planting has grown from 1,938 acres in 2018 to 9,634 this year. These practices are continued progress in keeping the soil in the fields.

Recently elected board members for Sheboygan River Progressive Farmers group include, back row from left,  Tom Stemper, Brian Huenink, Mark Loehr, Derek Sippel. From row from left: John Helmer, Joe Wagner, Mark Breunig, Travis Luedke, and Brody Stapel.

SRPF also elected new board members — Mark Breunig, Brian Huenink (secretary), Derek Sippel and Brody Stapel (president). The group recognized outgoing board members, Warren DeMunck, Clint Hodorff, Nick Kleiber, Mike Mulder, Dennis Roehrborn and Dan Roehrborn. The other remaining board members are John Helmer, Mark Loehr (vice president), Travis Luedke (treasurer), Tom Stemper and Joe Wagner.