Do Better on the Land You Have

I recently read a New York Times article on soaring farmland prices. An 80-acre Iowa farm sold on auction for $10,600/acre to the local John Deere dealer/owner. As he said, where else do you go with money? Farmers are not the only ones who make money as farmers do better; our economy will do better, too. We hate paying taxes and always keep investing in our businesses, the perfect plan for America.

So where is that Iowa family who sold that farm going with their money? Farmland, I guess, is a secure investment—but I’m glad here at Otter Creek Organic Farms we are not buying more.

Consider this: instead of buying expensive acreage, why not invest more in the land we have—get it healthier, working better? Organic corn selling at $15+/bushel and 50 extra bu/acre is a no-brainer! Seed costs the same, as does tillage, some cultivating, planting and harvesting. True, there’s a little more expense for hauling all that extra corn, but who is going to complain about that?

Yes, I am convinced that most farmers can produce 50 more bushels of corn, 10 additional bushels of beans, 2 tons more alfalfa/forage and of better quality, too. Some farmers are already there, and now they want 50 more. Is that achievable? Not if they continue doing only what they have been doing! To get the first 50 was easier—switching to BioAg fertilizers, making sure the ground wasn’t hard and that residues weren’t sitting atop the ground, not breaking down. For many it meant a little surface tillage, breaking the crust, putting residues into the top few inches of the soil and ripping/digging deep or farming in a zone where soil structure and fertility can be improved. A plant’s got to have a place not tightly compacted, where roots can grow and be able to get down to needed nutrients. With soils, the top is easier to fix than the lower levels.

I’ve read articles stating that the cracks in the soil from the drought have subsoiled it for you. I’m not sure about that. Dead, hard, tight soils do crack a lot in drought, but the next year they still seem to be hard and dead.


“Getting better now has huge rewards. And once you are there, healthy soils and high yield can be maintained.”


Calcium is a nutrient that has a huge impact on soil structure and plant health, that’s one reason for the 50 bu/acre increase. Fertilizers from Midwestern BioAg also address possible limiting nutrients. Our fertilizer is a manufactured blend of many minerals including natural sources, all carefully chosen. Carbon, food for soil biology, is blended into this low salt index, buffered fertilizer.

Make a few other farm changes, based on your limiting factors, and you’re on your way. We all know there is more production out there to be gained.

Droughts are eye-openers. We are planning on putting irrigation on our main farm and have applied for permits, so hopefully by next year, we will have water available if needed. My son says now that we have water, we can’t let soil fertility be our limiting factor. My comment was with the price of land and farming and with what the crop’s worth not only in tons but in quality, why let nutrients be your limiting factor on any land, any time? If it doesn’t rain now it will eventually, and the type of fertilizer we add will be available then. It’s not like it’s gone, unless your soil is eroding away. If so, do something about it.

What level of balanced fertilizers, manures/compost, cover crops and tillage with a purpose do I need to do? That is the recipe for where the next 50 bushels of corn, the next 10 bushels of beans, the next 2 tons of forage will come from. What a great time to be in agriculture! Getting better now has huge rewards. And once you are there, healthy soils and high yield can be maintained.

So instead of buying more land, now’s the time to do better on the land you have. Call or visit with your Midwestern BioAg consultant on how to get to that next level.