Hosted by two commercial row-crop farmers and a dairy farmer, Field Work is a podcast that provides space for frank, realistic discussions about the benefits and challenges of sustainable agriculture. Hosts Zach Johnson, Mitchell Hora, and Tara Vander Dussen (who joined the team in season four) explore the successes and challenges farmers experience as they adopt new practices, while still getting into the weeds on the difficulties.
The Episode Where the Chopper Arrives and Carbon Markets Are All Figured Out
According to the EPA, the agriculture sector of the economy causes 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, far behind energy, transportation, and industry. But there’s a lot of interest in how to reduce ag’s carbon footprint. Regenerative practices on the farm, especially using cover crops for soil health, can reduce those emissions by sequestering carbon below ground. Yet carbon markets for ag are still kind of the Wild West. On this episode of Field Work, hosts Zach Johnson and Mitchell Hora explore the roles of finance and government in building the markets. Guests are Cristian Barcan, vice president for sustainability for Rabo Agrifinance, one of the biggest agricultural lenders in the U.S., and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.
Read more: The roles of finance and government in building the markets
Rick Haney's Uncommon Sense
One of the most important resources for farmers interested in sustainable practices is a soil test commonly known as the Haney Test. In this episode, we talk to the developer of the test, Rick Haney, a soil scientist who will retire from USDA Agricultural Research Service on June 30. Rick tells Field Work producer Annie Baxter how he came up with his legendary soil health test — and exactly how it works. We also hear from Indiana farmer Rick Clark about how he converted his 7,000-acre farm from conventional corn and soybean to no-till and diversified his crops. The Haney test played a crucial role.
The two Ricks help lead a brainstorm about scaling up regenerative practices to slow climate change and help farmers be more profitable — with Iowa farmer Brian Hora (Mitchell’s dad), North Carolina farmer Russell Hedrick and Great Plains Regeneration Executive Director Jessica Gnad also joining in.
Our show was recorded at Field Work co-host Mitchell Hora’s field day June 3, 2021, in Washington County, Iowa.
Forget Horsepower, We’re Talking Cow Power!
This week on Field Work, Zach and Mitchell talk about the future of tractors with New Holland’s Director of Commercial Marketing, Mark Lowery. First up is a look beyond diesel fuel to the methane powered tractor New Holland is planning to introduce late this year. It will have reduced fuel costs and greatly reduced emissions versus a traditional diesel tractor, with the potential to have essentially zero emissions if it is paired with a bioreactor capturing methane from manure. Later, they talk about autonomous operation, where it is now, where it is probably going next, and why we don’t need to worry about them taking over the world (yet).
Read more: A methane-powered tractor
The Promise of Perennials
Research at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, over the past couple of decades has advanced the concept of perennial grain crops to the point of commercially available kernza. Mitchell and Zach talk to a Minnesota organic farmer, Luke Peterson, who’s been growing kernza in his fields and cultivating interest in it among other farmers, food processors and retailers. They’re joined by Tessa Peters of The Land Institute who explains where the name came from and why her team is so committed to making perennial grains viable.
Read more: Research at The Land Institute
Banking on Innovation
Marc Schober is director of specialized agriculture solutions for Bremer Bank, the nation’s 9th largest farm lender. Zach and Mitchell ask him about how he decides which #fintech and #agtech solutions are worth recommending to the bank and to farmers. Schober tells Field Work he is bullish on finding ways to incentivize transitions to regenerative ag for farms of all sizes, but less sure of how exactly carbon markets will work, or what changes they can expect with the Biden administration.
Read more: 5 ideas for farmers who want to minimize risk
How Conservation Saved a Cotton Farmer
Field Work hosts Mitchell Hora and Zach Johnson talk to cotton farmer Adam Chappell about cotton and sharecropping. Chappell nearly lost his farm 10 years ago to a triple whammy of drought, pigweed and a customer who didn’t pay. He fought his way back to profitability by adopting regenerative practices. Now he uses much less seed, fertilizer, herbicide and irrigation than he used to. He has integrated livestock and figured out what cover crops work best for corn and soybeans, as well as cotton. Now he’s looking into chicken tractors, sheep and downsizing his acreage because his margin is so much better.
Read more: Changes Chappell made on his farm
Great information on topics with fantastic guests!
Great content that is both economical and logical.
Love it, Keep it up
Few thoughts wanted to share.
Would love to hear more about integrating livestock into cover crops to generate cash flow to offset or completely pay for the cost of the cover.
Also do you think the reason so many operations focus on top line revenue is the broad use of cash accounting in farming instead of accrual accounting that gives you a true profit or loss?
Food for thought,