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Uhl Farms recognized for sustainable ag efforts

Uhl Farms recognized for sustainable ag efforts
Uhl Farms recognized for sustainable ag efforts
Fred and Deborah Uhl’s business, Uhl Farms of Harrison County, was recently recognized with honorable mention for the 2019 Partners in Excellence Advocacy Award by Land O’Lakes. Submitted photo

Uhl Farms of Harrison County was recently recognized with honorable mention for the 2019 Partners in Excellence Advocacy Award by farmer-owned co-op Land O’Lakes for its leadership in sustainable agriculture and on-farm stewardship efforts, including using innovative techniques and tools to improve soil, water and air quality.

Fred Uhl advocates for agriculture not only by implementing conservation practices on his 2,200 acres, but also by serving on the Harrison County Extension Board and on the Premier Ag Cooperative Board. Uhl also co-wrote the Farmland Ordinance for Harrison County, collaborating with government officials and representing farmers’ voices.

For many farmers, conservation is at the forefront of their operation. Farmers around the country are focused on protecting the ground from erosion and over-application of nutrients.

In Harrison County, Uhl, a third-generation farmer, and his wife, Deborah, take the long-term view when it comes to farming, and it’s paying off. After transitioning out of the dairy industry a little more than 25 years ago, Uhl Farms shifted its focus entirely to growing popcorn, corn and soybeans.

Looking for a way to boost efficiency and save time, Fred began practicing no-till. Soon after, he began to see no-till as more than just a time-savings, but also as a way to boost soil health, reduce erosion and control moisture. Eight years ago, Uhl Farms also started to use variable rate technology (VRT) to apply nutrients. Applying only what was needed and where it was needed helped to cut costs and boost yields right away. Uhl Farms is now beginning to use VRT with seed as well to further maximize these benefits.

Uhl found that on his farm there is a correlation between a profitable acre and an acre managed with increased conservation, especially when it comes to yields and soil health.

“Transitioning to no-till has worked to make the soil healthier over the years,” he said. “Especially with the rain last spring, the soil health we’ve built has helped keep the soil in place and the ground was able to dry out faster. The addition of variable rate technology to seed and apply fertilizer has helped with our yields. The yield increase in our corn and soybeans has been absolutely phenomenal. We are now working to use the ground to the best potential.”

Right now, the Uhls are continuing to advance their on-farm stewardship by planting cover crops. Working with Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN and ag retailer Premier Ag, they have been able to access USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service cost-sharing opportunities and expertise to make getting started easier.

“Premier Ag has been very helpful in helping us to begin with cover crops,” Uhl said. “They held an Answer Plot Event with a cover crop station that had NRCS people there to talk about cost-sharing opportunities and that was key to helping us get going.”

In addition to supporting profitability, conservation and managing the environmental impact of their operation is fundamental to the Uhl family.

“Agriculture sometimes can get a bad reputation,” Uhl said. “We’re not out here trying to hurt the environment, so it is very important to me that people know we are trying to do a good job.

“Our farm has also been in the family for more than 100 years, making it even more important that we take care of it,” he said.

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