“We are doing things that may not have a clear economic benefit, but we know it is better for the environment, and better for us overall, so we do it,” Ben Chaffin shares.
Chaffin Farms is located in Ithaca, Michigan, where they take pride in growing sugar beets, soybeans, corn, and silage, along with organic string beans, peas, squash, corn, and edible beans.
The Chaffins strongly believe in incorporating best practices into all aspects of their farm. Taking care of their land and air are top priority. Their practices bring many natural benefits to the land they care for, including increased soil health, water conservation, and reduced nonrenewable energy use.
One piece of this stewardship program includes close monitoring of irrigation to ensure the crops not only have the best chance for success with the right amount of water and hydration, but that water is used most effectively. The farm has also worked to convert from diesel to electric water pumps to lessen the environmental impacts from exhaust and other possible contaminants.
In addition to irrigation, they plant cover crops on many of their acres. By doing this, they are helping protect the topsoil from erosion, and ensuring the soil stays fertile for future plants and generations to come, which in turn can help reduce the amount of inputs needed by the soil to adequately feed future crops. Typical cover crops for Chaffin Farms are wheat and rye, which are readily available and easily controlled with spring tillage. Along with cover crops they use crop rotations to limit the depletion of nutrients in the soils.
GPS grid soil sampling is just another best practice used on the Chaffin Farm. Using a 22.5 acre grid allows Ben to see the soil make-up and nutrient deficiencies in the fields ahead of the next years planting. Allowing him to apply fertilizer only to the acres that need the boost and skip or scale back on the areas that naturally have enough. They also use variable rate seeding, meaning they only plant the amount of seeds that the soil is able to support – eliminating overuse of the soil and waste in seed and input costs.
Another practice the Chaffin’s use is the repurposing of manure from area farms by spreading it on the fields for fertilization. With the use of the soil samples and expert consultants, they are able to add just enough organic matter to the soil; it is a natural way of adding nutrients to feed the crops.
Organic matter and topsoil protection also come through the use of cover crops. These “in between” plants keep the soil hidden from the winds of Mother Nature in the off season, and then get worked into the soil for added nutrients for the new crop. Soil health and groundwater quality are always top of mind – the better steward of the natural resources he is, the more promise there is for a bright future on the farm.
Ben exemplifies the character of farmers – it isn’t always the easiest route that makes the biggest difference, and Chaffin Farms ensures they are putting in the extra effort, even during their busiest seasons, to improving their practices every day for the future generations.