Mark Heckman, Muscatine County

Farms: Corn, soybeans, hogs, cow-calf operation

Conservation practices used: Cover crops, CRP acres, wetland reclamation easement, buffer strips, turn rows, headlands, terraces

Value of conservation: We have seen the reduction in soil loss going into the Southfork Watershed close to where we live, plus the water in the streams near our farm is noticeably clearer.

Why cover crops? I was curious about cover crops, and signing up for the Soil Health Partnership allowed me the opportunity to see firsthand how they would work on my farm. They have been an integral part of our farm from a conservation standpoint, as well as an added benefit to our livestock operation.

Value of conservation:Our conservation practices have done a great job of keeping our soil in place and building organic matter. Our cover crops have played a role in our livestock operation as well, acting as a feed source for our cow-calf operation.

“Livestock is an integral part of our operation and it's also part of our conservation plan. It actually fits real well. We apply manure in the fall and the cover crops help to hold that manure right in the root zone.”

Advice for other farmers: Start small and use groups like Iowa Corn and the Soil Health Partnership to help support you. Go look at the farms of those who have started conservation practices and ask questions. Embrace the change and get started.