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Situated in Northeastern Ohio, Campbell Brothers, Inc., is a true family operation run by three brothers: Randy, Rick and Rodney Campbell with the help of Randy’s son Dustin and cousin Ed. On the 2,600-acre farm, they produce corn, soybeans and wheat.
Campbell Brothers, Inc., is located in Stark and Columbiana counites on rolling ground, which means there is an increased risk of erosion. To mitigate erosion risk and build healthy soils, the Campbells work towards implementing good stewardship practices.
Sustainability has been a priority on the operation since its inception. The farm was started by Randy’s three uncles, who were conscious of soil health and stopped chisel plowing in the early 70s. “We define sustainability as ‘soil health’ – everything we do is geared toward improving soil health,” says Randy Campbell. “We are constantly trying to maximize the value of our inputs to improve the crop while balancing the soil health.”
Fast-forward to the present, the Campbell brothers have transitioned to complete no-till in soybeans and wheat and strip-till in corn. In addition to their tilling practices, they use cover crops, nitrogen management and grid sampling.
The Campbell Brothers work with Mark Smith at Heritage Cooperative, a Truterra retailer, for their precision technology needs. “Mark is a one-stop shop for us,” says Campbell. By working with Heritage, the Campbell Brothers have been able to implement precision technologies on-farm. Twenty years ago, the Campbell Brothers took advantage of Heritage’s Variable Rate Technology (VRT) offering and have been using it on their lime, phosphorus, and potassium ever since.
More recently, Heritage offered the Truterra™ Insights Engine to the Campbell Brothers to help them establish a sustainability baseline, track improvements, and mitigate risk. The Campbell Brothers utilize the Truterra™ Insights Engine to fine tune their practices. “Right now, we are most interested in using the Truterra™ Insights Engine to collect our sustainability data to establish a baseline for each of our fields and then continue collecting data on those fields so we can see the year-on-year impact and begin using it to plan,” says Campbell.
Campbell says the use of small grains cover crops has been helpful for mitigating land erosion, and the practice has made those fields more productive than in the past. Randy adds they have found that establishing cover crops can be difficult, so they are focusing on finding ways to fine tune their cover crop practices to establish better stands.
Campbell says the operation has seen the greatest impact both agronomically and economically from strip-tilling their phosphorus and potassium. He notes that they always have seen good results from strip-tilling nitrogen, but since adding phosphorus and potassium into the strip, it took “yields to the next level.”
For the Campbell brothers, sustainability is directly tied to soil health and implementing the above conservation practices have had a direct impact. “Our soils seem to be more resilient,” Campbell says. “When we have to do things we don’t like to do [due to Mother Nature or some uncontrollable factor] the yield impact isn’t as bad.” Campbell says he appreciates the more resilient soils to help reduce the uncontrollable factors that farmers face every season.
The impact the Campbell Brothers are seeing doesn’t stop as it relates to their farm, either. The operation is involved in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), which is a political subdivision of the State of Ohio organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce the effects of flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses. By implementing cover crops, strip/no-till and thoughtful nitrogen management practices, the Campbell Brothers are doing their part to improve the water quality in the Muskingum Watershed for all.
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It's never too early to discuss a project, or to consider the sustainability posibilities for your organization.