Because the Springstuns farm some highly erodible land with a mix of soil types, much of their production plan focuses on how best to conserve that soil.
Almost all of their nonirrigated farmland is planted without any tillage. Each year they rotate between corn and soybeans to further improve available soil nutrients and boost yield.They plant cover crops to further protect the soil during the off-season.
“We plant wheat and cereal rye or forage rye to prevent soil erosion and help suppress weeds,” Philip says.
Technology also plays a key role in keeping the farm sustainable.
A move to grid sampling for soil nutrients on a 2.5-acre grid system a few years ago has helped lower lime costs and improve yields using variable rate fertilizer and lime applications.
“We knew our soil tests were accurate. That didn’t change, because as a farmer you know where the good and bad areas of a field are located,” Philip says. “What was surprising was that some areas of the field didn’t need fertilizer at all. We learned that some areas need 1.5 to 2 tons of lime per acre while others need zero.”
Before grid sampling, the Springstuns would have treated entire fields with one rate of fertilizer to help improve the weaker spots. Now, with variable rate applications and more area-specific information, they are able to focus nutrient applications on the areas where they are most needed, while improving yield.
Tissue samples taken during the growing season further help to determine the crop’s nutrient needs.
“You may still see the same weaker areas of those fields, but they are improving, and you’ve reduced your overall fertilizer application,” Philip says.
Manure from the farm’s cattle also supplements fertilizer needs.
“The mixture of manure plus some straw around the feeder helps add organic matter to the soil,” Philip says.
The Springstuns raise cattle on areas of the farm that are not suitable for row crop production.
Although they have sold freezer beef to consumers for more than 35 years, the demand for their locally-raised product experienced an upswing in 2020.
“Ultimately, it all started with the shortage of available product at grocery stores. The idea of not being able to buy necessities at the grocery store had people looking for local food sources,” Philip says. “A lot of these problems were created by people hoarding in a panic. I can live without toilet paper, but I can’t live without food.”
While the pandemic might have been the driving force for demand, the quality of the beef is the reason many of those 2020 orders have turned into repeat customers.
“We have beef booked through the remainder of 2021,” Philip says. “We already had our regular customers and now we have reorders from our new customers.”
Debbie works full-time off the farm providing health insurance.She provides help with transporting equipment and with cattle before and after her off-farm full time job.
Both Springstun children contribute their share of work to the family farm. Logan, a Purdue University graduate, is married to Shelby. He sells Pioneer seed and farms with Philip. Maggie, also a Purdue alumnus, is a research and development manager for a local food production manufacturer.
Maggie and Shelby help as extra drivers during hay season,” says Philip. “And Logan works with me on the farm year-round.”