Tom Vaske, Delaware County

Farms: Corn, soybeans

Conservation practices used: No-till, strip-till, cover crops, waterways, buffer strips, pollinators

A shift in mindset: My father bought this farm in 1969 and started working the land with a moldboard plow and eventually transitioned to a chisel plow. In 2004, when my wife and I took over the farm, we started no-till with the soybeans and strip-till with the corn. That transition was tough for my father to understand in the beginning, but now he sees the soil health benefit of the conservation tillage we have adopted.

Mentored by a conservationist: When I took over the family farm I was also renting some land from a conservation-minded landowner. He wanted the soybean land no-tilled. I thought I would do it for a few years to make him happy, but I fell in love with this “new” way of farming.

“You can look at conservation two ways. You can do it because there’s a program you can utilize to implement a new practice, or you can do it because you want it to work. When you decide to make it work you will see your greatest success.”

Learning about cover crops: I am new to adopting cover crops on my acres and have only planted cereal rye so far. I am looking into the benefits of adding other kinds of cover crops, like oats. I’m doing my research and want to be successful because I see the soil-health benefits of cover crops.

Benefits: Because of the conservation tillage practices and adding cover crops to my system, my soil is staying in place and gaining organic matter. I also spend a lot less time in the field working the ground. Besides time savings, I am reaping the benefits of fuel and equipment savings, too.

Advice for other farmers: Be determined to make a new practice work and do your research. There’s a lot of information and advice from other farmers on the internet. Talk to experts and bounce ideas off of other farmers. And most importantly, listen to what they have to say.