Searching for a Corn Farmer
I’ve been on the look out for a carbon smart corn farmer for several years. Back in the spring I got a lead on one from Scott Gibbs who makes compost on a large scale. Scott had a name but no contact info and it took several hours of web surfing to finally talk to J. R. Bollinger who farms east of the small town of Blodgett, Mo.
Yesterday J.R. spent four hours showing me his corn, walking into his 20 acre contest plot and discussing threats to non gmo farming. That 20 acres is where he babies a corn crop and for two years he has won a Missouri state corn yield contest. It is not his prowess as a yield winner that I am interested in, rather, it is his knowledge of what makes for healthy and resilient soil. J.R. plants his crops on 30” rows, but he only tills about 7.5” and leaves the rest undisturbed. We searched in the rows and between the rows for earthworms. Lots of worm castings were to be found, but most worms had traveled deeper to avoid the cold surface soil. J.R. finally pulled a corn stalk and there in the root mass was a teenaged earth worm. He ads carbon in the form of char along with humic acid, mychorizal fungi and other amendments that feed the soil biology (which in turn feeds the plants). This healthy soil requires half the NPK fertilizer inputs that other farmers in the area use. The result is healthy, fast growing plants that shade out weeds. In 2017 J.R. did not have to spray his corn after planting. It also means his soil is not prone to wind or water erosion and he is not sending large amounts of fertilizer down the Mississippi to ad to the algal bloom in the Gulf. Content with what I saw, I bought 2000 bushels of corn and gladly paid about $.50/bushel premium knowing that I am supporting regenerative agriculture.
We spent the remainder of our time talking about Dicamba. You may have seen it in the news this past summer. It is the herbicide that Monsanto is touting as the replacement for RoundUp. Several weeds have developed a resistance to RoundUp and thus a different herbicide is needed. J.R. and his father farm 100% non-gmo and thus they can not use either of these herbicides. Their neighbors planted Dicamba resistant beans and sprayed Dicamba and the spray drift got on the Bollinger’s beans, resulting in a significant yield loss.(think 6 digits x 5) Other farmers that did not plant Dicamba resistant GMO beans also had damage. Here is a link
J.R. attended a town hall meeting of angry farmers in Mississippi County and had the guts to tell the crowd that “we brought this on ourselves with such heavy reliance on RoundUp. Do we think that Dicamba will not have resistant weeds in the years to come?” Now that is a contrarian.
J.R. said the loss of income from the damaged beans was substantial, but an even greater loss was the loss of a year of knowledge. Farmers have a limited number of harvests from which to learn from and he had just lost a year of soybean knowledge. That is profound.
I found the carbon smart corn farmer. I should have known that if they farmed with carbon in the boot heel that he/she would be a contrarian. I think we will be buying corn from the Bollinger family for many seasons to come.
We are so grateful for each of our customers, workers, family, neighbors and the many wonderful experiences we have had this year. May you be blessed with Joy and togetherness this Christmas season.
Jim & Judy Jo Protiva, and Isaac