Trying new ideas on the farm, especially those that involve innovative approaches, will not always be easily understood by neighbors or other people who drive by. But for those willing to follow their own curiosity, the benefits can far outweigh the costs. Illinois farmer Gary Asay talks about his farming system that combines no-till, cover crops and hog manure. Gary farms in Henry County in Northwest Illinois. There’s a lot of hard-earned wisdom in Gary’s path to getting into no-till, and the impact that has had on his farming operation.
“A lot of people look at what I do and they think I’m crazy. You know, it can’t be done. We want to tell people it can be done. No-till and cover crops is not easy. A lot of people expect just to go out there and have a prescription, you do this at a certain time, and everything works just right. With cover crops you got to manage even better. So, it is a challenge, and it takes time, but I do believe the benefits are good enough to keep working at it.”
Soil erosion and maintaining the soil’s nutrition along with less need for equipment have motivated Gary to incorporate these practices. He has been in continuous no-till for over 20 years and started incorporating cover crops in 2010. He began raising hogs as a kid in 4-H, and after many years he finally sold his hog operation to a young farmer getting into the business, but he still uses the manure from that operation as a major source of his fertilizer.
“I feel more and more that it is very important to keep that microbiome in the soil healthy and working for you…every time I dig in the soil, I was turning up earthworms and seeing the holes in the soil from the earthworms that they leave. It tells me that, you know, there’s a lot going on underground and the microbiomes are a part you can’t really see but they have added benefits there too.”