Organic Farming and Sustainability: Q&A with a Nebraska Landlord
Tim Slaughter—a landowner located near Rosalie, Nebraska—has been renting out his family’s farmland for a few decades. The land, with rolling hills and some bottom ground, has been passed down from generation to generation in the Slaughter family. At one time, he farmed the land with his father. After some tough farming years in the eighties, Tim’s father began renting out the family’s farmland.
Now that Tim has taken over as landlord for the farm, profitability isn’t his only goal. He also wants the land to be left in the same condition as it was when his family first started renting it out. In fact, he tests the soil with his farmers from day one. When they’re done farming the ground, the soil will be tested again. This gives a bit of accountability to both parties and helps ensure the land is in good shape for years to come.
We recently had the opportunity to ask Tim a few questions about the farmland that he rents, and his perception of the organic farming methods currently utilized on the farm.
Tell us about the land that you rent.
I rent out 607 acres near Fremont, Nebraska. Other than a few acres of hay, all of the land is currently being farmed with organic crops.
What is the relationship you have with the growers who are farming your land?
I have a great existing relationship with the farmers and have established a high level of trust with them. I speak with them periodically, but as the landowner I have to be fairly hands-off. You lose a certain amount of control over the land once you lease it out, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t check up on the health and viability of the ground.
Did you initially have reservations about the farmer growing organic crops on your land?
I didn’t have any reservations. When the farmers said they wanted to begin farming organic crops on my acres, I knew it would be a good move for the future of the land. With the profit potential and the sustainability factor, I would definitely grow organic crops if I was still farming today.
What are your thoughts about the land that is being farmed organically?
I’ve walked the rows three times this year and everything looks great. The corn looks magnificent. No weeds, no grass. Initially, I think organic farmers had some things to figure out — different weed control practices and yield improvements — but they’ve certainly got it down to a science now. I’m very impressed.
Is organic farming helping the sustainability of your land?
I do feel as if the organic farming methods are helping preserve the condition of the land. Farming has very much become a practice of spraying everything to fix problems and if that doesn’t work, spray it twice next year! Those practices catch up with you and certainly don’t do any favors for the land. I’ve been very happy with the organic farming methods used on my ground. The farmers had to learn a few new methods of farming, but in the long run I feel as if it will really pay off.
What would you tell another landowner who is skeptical about organic crops being farmed on their land?
I wouldn’t tell them anything, I would show them. I would take them for a ride to the land and show them the ground that has organic crops. They’ll see clean rows and no weeds. That’s all it would take to convince another landowner that this is something that’s a big positive.
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