Continuing to Adopt New Practices: Keith Bennett - Taylor County, Iowa

Keith Bennett has been a steward of the land for over 30 years and is still eager to explore new conservation practices to help improve his operation. As an operator in Taylor County, he has the opportunity to farm a variety of landscapes, crops, and soils. Over the years, his 240 acre operation has consisted of corn, soybean, hay, pasture, and a 29 cow-calf pair operation.  He has had the privilege to farm for different family Century Farms and hopes to have his farm in that category one day, as well.  In order to pass on a farm, he knows you must take care of the present in order to have a future.  “Conservation of the soil is so important. If you lose your soil, you have nothing.” 

Keith uses several different conservation practices in his farming operation: No till, crop rotation, terraces, contour farming, prescribed grazing, field borders, waterways, filter strips, and takes soil samples each year with grid sampling every 4 years.  This fall he also hopes to try cover crops for the first time. “It’s never too late to try something new.  I know how important it is to keep the soil intact. I want to do what I can to help improve my soil.”

Together, all of these conservation practices are helping save his soil.  Maintaining waterways helps prevent ditches when crop ground is rotated, terraces help slow water runoff, and crop rotation is providing diversity for the soil.  The recent changes that are being made through cover crops and the Taylor County Water Quality Initiative (WQI) Project are contributing to his soil health efforts and the goal to improve his operation.   His current goal is to increase his herd and find more ground for his spring and fall herds.  “In Taylor County, diversity is key.”

This year he has also participated in the Taylor County WQI project.  Seeding 20 acres to a hay mix of Alfalfa, Orchard Grass, Timothy, and Oats will help provide cover on his HEL ground, increase his ROI, as well as provide feed for his livestock operation. “Looking at that portion of my farm, I have wanted to do something other than farm row crop. I’ve wanted to improve it, but until this project came out, I didn’t realize how beneficial it was to seed those acres down to hay. I’ve had a great stand so far. It really makes sense to do this.”      

Keith hopes that with projects like this, more people can see the importance of caring about the land and doing what’s best for the land, not just focusing on yields and the top dollar. “It’s hard for me to watch landowners or managers disrespect the land and not maintain terraces, waterways, or work with the land.” Keith continues to be an advocate of the Water Quality Initiative and conservation practices while encouraging others to “do what’s right, because it’s not too late.”

Will Myers