Ray Gaesser grew up on a small farm in southern Indiana and said he visited Iowa for the Farm Progress Show one year and never wanted to leave. So that’s where he and his wife moved when they had the chance to start their farming careers. Over the decades Ray has improved his own soil health and enjoys working with neighbor farmers to do the same. Ray shares about his adoption of soil health building practices, no-till and cover crops, what he did to survive tough times in the 1980s, and how the interest in soil health is bringing new economic opportunities to his community.
“My message has always been when we work together, we all benefit. We’re providing soil health benefits with cover crops and no-till and all that. But we’re also working with our neighbors to add to that benefit and help them at the same time. And, you know, we don’t have to be in competition all the time, do we? Why don’t we think about our community a little bit.”
Ray first gained experience with no-till on a farm he worked at in Indiana. After moving to his own operation in Iowa he began to integrate that same practice in the 1990’s. He is still hesitant to plant his corn into a green cover crop and prefers to have the cover crop terminated prior to planting. His soybeans on the other hand get planted “green or nearly green.” This difference is based on past experiences and successes. He admits that “not every practice fits for everyone” and that as a farming community we need to try new practices to continue to “invest in our next generations.”
“It’s a process and we continue to adapt and to learn and to find opportunities.”