Mark Kingma and his farming operation were selected to host a stop on the Purdue University Farm Management Tour near DeMotte, Ind., in 2016. Kingma is an accomplished no-tiller, but the selection wasn’t based on what he does in the field only. How he's managed his farm over time played a big part in the selection process, officials noted.
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Kingma has no-tilled for over 30 years. Many of his soils are sandy, and about two-thirds of his farm is irrigated. No-till works well with his soil types, he notes. Over the past several years he has begun incorporating cover crops into his no-till system to help build soil health at an even faster pace.
“We’ve been able to increase organic matter on our lighter soils about 1 percentage point every 10 years since we switched primarily to no-till,” Kingma says. The increase in organic matter translates into healthier soil and, when the weather cooperates, generally higher yields.
He’s even intensifying efforts to improve soil health by hosting cover crop plots on his farm. His goal is to find out which cover crops work best in his operation.
Still, during the tour, when Michael Langemeier, Purdue Extension ag economist and associate director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture, asked Kingma to name the keys to success in his farming operation to date, he didn’t talk about nitrogen application decisions or which cover crops he uses.
Instead, Kingma laid out three keys that he believes help him be a successful manager. He farms with his brother-in-law Greg Smith and his nephew Craig Smith. The farm also has other employees.
Here are Kingma's three keys to reaching for success in farming.
1. Even if you are a boss, realize you need to be a good listener. “I try to listen just as much as I talk,” Kingma says. He says this is especially important when interacting with partners and employees on the farm.
2. Find time to attend off-farm events if there is a chance to learn. “I attend meetings when I can,” Kingma says. However, he’s fairly selective about which meetings are worth his time. Many of the meetings he attends are hosted by the local Extension service or Purdue University.
He also attends meetings related to soil conservation and cover crops. Kingma has become acquainted with experts in various fields, including those who can give good advice on how to make cover crops work successfully in a corn-soybean rotation.
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3. Make sure you include time for discussions with key people in the operation. That includes listening to other people’s ideas, Kingma says. He finds that discussions with partners and employees about day-to-day farming topics can be beneficial.