For A.J. and Kellie Blair, protecting the land they farm and the watershed they live in is a family affair.
The husband-wife duo has tailored their modern, diversified
farm near Dayton, Iowa to include numerous conservation practices.
The Blairs raise hogs and cattle and operate a cropping system integrating cover crops, corn and soybeans. The cover crops (rye) are used for soil conservation and as a forage source for their cattle. This system allows for field use nearly 12 months out of the year.
"Cover crops are an additional crop that is planted in the fall, grows until frost and will either die over winter, or come back in the spring depending on what you plant," Kellie said. "They benefit our soil health by increasing soil organic matter and decreasing erosion by keeping the soil covered and holding the soil in place. Cover crops also take up nutrients from the soil that would otherwise be at risk of loss through erosion or leaching through groundwater. As the cover crops decay in the spring the nutrients become available for our corn or soybeans."
Ten percent of their crop acres include perennial vegetation through the Conservation Reserve Program and no-till applications are used to reduce erosion and nitrate run-off. The Blairs have installed buffer strips and wetlands and planted trees around livestock buildings to serve as buffers and odor management.
Their efforts have earned A.J. ('03 agricultural business) and Kellie ('06 agronomy, forestry) the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Iowa Environmental Leader Award in 2014 and the Iowa Cattlemen's Association Environmental Stewardship Award in 2016.
The Blairs are each active in grower associations and agricultural industry leadership throughout the state. Kellie also serves as watershed coordinator for the Boone River Watershed.
They are continually working with Iowa Soybean On-Farm Network, Iowa State Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Beef Center, Agriculture's Clean Water Alliance, and other partners to collect and analyze data on their farming operation. The Blairs make decisions based on science to benefit their productivity and the health of their soil and water.
A.J. and Kellie also enjoy sharing their farm with the public hosting farmers and consumers at nearly 20 events during the past two years and opening their farm virtually to consumers via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and via Kellie's Blog "Home Again Finnegan."