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Innovation has long inspired new, more efficient and more sustainable farming practices, with farmers at the helm driving stewardship. In December 2019, we honored Jack and Frank Appleberry of A&A Farms with the Outstanding Innovation Award at our Partners in Excellence Summit. Lance Crosby of Crosby Farms was also honored in the category. These farmers have pioneered the adoption of new ag technologies, practices and products that improve the sustainability of their own operations and have inspired innovation in their communities and beyond.

Founded in 1941, A&A Farms is a fourth-generation farm in Tillar, Arkansas. Jake Appleberry and his father, Frank Appleberry, have long used ag technology to implement conservation practices across their 3,000-acre farm that balance environmental benefits with profitability. Frank began zone soil sampling in the 1970s and adopted the use of steering technology in 2002. When Jack began to farm full-time with his father, together they implemented yield data collections, variable rate technology and grid soil sampling.

This season, the Appleberrys began using advanced scouting and zone spraying on a trial basis, a practice that they say has led to using a reduced amount of insecticide and an increased number of local pollinators on the farm. Over the past five years, A&A Farms has implemented the use of cover crops on a portion of their acres, as well as a tail water recovery system that irrigates their land using runoff water to increase the farm’s soil health.

Their ag retailer, GreenPoint AG, says the Appleberrys’ continued use of technology and embrace of innovation is helping them “continue to be good stewards of the land for generations to come.

Honorable mention Lance Crosby of Crosby farms in Great Bend, Kansas, was nominated by his ag retailer, Great Bend Co-op. Crosby Farms stretches across 10,000 acres growing wheat, corn, soybeans, sorghum and alfalfa. Crosby Farms adopted variable rate technology (VRT) in 2016 after attending an informational meeting on the benefits and means of adoption. Although few others in the community had recognized the opportunities that VRT presented, Lance understood that there was a huge opportunity for economical return, despite the cost of implementation.

Crosby Farms was also an early adopter of collecting and analyzing yield data, using it to understand more about the variability in their fields. With recognition of this variability, Crosby Farms looked to make improvements in each acre to maximize yields and create increased revenue. Crosby Farms has experienced that better placement of seeds, nutrients and water can not only increase yield, but allows them to be better stewards of the land.

After Crosby Farms attended the Partners in Excellence Summit in 2018, they decided to work with Great Bend Co-op to use the TruterraTM Insights Engine on their farm. Crosby Farms was among the first farmers to work with Great Bend Co-op to enter acres into the TruterraTM Insights Engine, with hopes that the data will help them focus on less efficient ground and help them make decisions acre by acre to improve both profitability and sustainability across the entire operation.

Great Bend Co-op said that in their community, “neighbors and peers recognize the Crosbys as a quiet leader of innovation.” Working together to enter data into the TruterraTM Insights Engine and advance stewardship efforts has deepened the relationship between Crosby Farms and their ag-retailer. Crosby Farms and Great Bend are leveraging their relationship to create conversation around advanced solutions that can create potential growth and opportunities for farmers in the area.

We’re proud to honor pioneers like A&A Farms, Crosby Farms and their ag retailers for bold innovation on the farm. These farmers and many others are taking risks to implement new technologies into their operations to ultimately preserve the land for future generations to come.