3rd Gen. Idaho Farmer Uses New Practices to Farm for the Future

Meet Scott. Scott is a third-generation farmer in Shelley, Idaho. His 3,500-acre farm grows crops such as potatoes and soft white winter wheat. Scott grew up on this farm and learned the trade from his father. He now manages 12-40 employees – including his four sons – who work on the farm.

Scott is a part of the Kellogg’s Origins™ Pacific Northwest Wheat Project, which launched in the summer of 2016. Through this program, Kellogg and Ardent Mills, a supplier to Kellogg, partnered with farmers in southeast Idaho and northern Utah to measure on-farm continuous improvement against key environmental metrics. Scott shared some of his thoughts on being part of this project.

Q: Tell us why you decided to join the Pacific Northwest Wheat Project: 
A: Farmers already are practicing various sustainable agriculture practices. We’re out on the land every day, and we are able to see small changes as they happen. So we’re always evaluating how the things we do impact the land and we’re looking for ways to improve growing conditions. The tools in this project give us a way to record our notes and learn from other farmers who are sharing their practices.

Q: Tell us about how you track continuous improvement through the project: 
A: It’s really about tracking our farming data to identify opportunities to improve over time. In addition, we get feedback from Kellogg and Ardent Mills, who compare my metrics to local and state benchmarks to make sure we’re being as efficient as possible and adopting best practices on the farm. We use a tool called the Field to Market Fieldprint® Calculator to input different metrics from our farm. The calculator comes from a group called Field to Market®  which is an alliance group aimed at improving productivity, environmental quality and farmer well-being across the agriculture supply-chain.

Q: What does sustainability mean to you?
A: To me, “sustainability” means being a better steward of the land. This means optimizing what we put into the farm to maximize crop yields. The focus is often different every year. For example, we’re monitoring our water usage a lot more than we used to. How it works in practice is: I use data from the US Bureau of Reclamation to estimate how much water I’ll need for specific crops over a specific period of time. Then I go out with a shovel a few times a week to check to how wet the soil is and to make sure we aren’t overwatering those fields. We are using our metrics to conserve water and take better care of our resources.

Q: You grew up on a farm. How is farming different now, and what do you want to see in the future? 
A: It was fun growing up on a farm. The whole family worked together and it was a lot quieter back then. Raising kids on the farm is a good family life. We have four sons and two daughters, and all four boys are working on the farm. The two oldest boys work full time with me on the farm. It’s different now, because we have these resources to share our practices around the country. But also, we need to know what works best in our region. Our local practices and historical knowledge is the best way to get started, but we have so many more education opportunities than we did a few generations ago.

Also, since expanding the size of my farm, I don’t get to do some of the things my dad would do on the farm like drive the tractor. I focus a lot on the marketing aspect. Not a lot of farmers want to or have the time to market their crops. But, we have to be part of all steps in the life of our crops – from seed to sale. And we take a lot of pride in that. I want to make sure that I’m being smart with the resources needed for farming, and that I’m getting the best harvest out of my farm.

There’s a lot of satisfaction in growing a good quality crop. Putting a seed in the ground and putting your heart into it – there’s nothing quite like it.

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