"My farming journey began when my Grandma Lucille Manthe purchased 2 bred gilts for me when I was 5 years old named Pork and Mindy. My Dad was farming, working a full time job, and helping me to raise my first batch of pigs. I still remember cleaning and fixing their waterer, putting straw in the hog houses, cleaning out feeders and watching pigs run in the dirt lot and play in the mud. After a close call with an overly protective sow, Dad thought I should stick with feeder pigs that I bought from my cousin Billy Pritchard. I bought the pigs, supplements, and paid vet bills, and Dad supplied me with the corn to help me get started. It’s fun to see my handwriting as a 5 year old on checks...kinda looks like my handwriting again today!
Through school I raised up to 200 head per year and a few bucket calves which allowed me to save enough money to make the down payment on a small 17 acre farm when I was 16, and I drove (or wrecked) the family truck or car instead. Then I quit raising pigs and started selling seed corn and working at the local CaseIH dealership in Geneseo.
I decided to go to Augustana College even though there are no ag programs because it was a great school and close to home so I could keep my seed business, work at the dealership and help with farming during nights and weekends. Since my Dad also worked at the dealership helping farmers to get their planting and harvests done, most of our farming was from 6 PM - Midnight. With a Business degree from Augie and the Agri from farming and helping farmers from my jobs, I created my own “agri-business” degree.
After graduation, I moved to Aledo to work at the CaseIH dealership in town and met my wife Robyn and we were married in June of 1998. One year later everything changed when our dealership had to close our doors. I struggled to figure out what to do next until a dealer friend from California called and said he needed some help so we packed up the truck and moved to Beverly...Firebaugh, CA that is.
Working at Firebaugh Equipment, I immediately fell in love with the farmers, crops, and land of the Central Valley. The crop diversity and complexity of farming was astounding, however, I couldn’t understand why they were tilling their soil so much. The costs, dusts and affect on soil health seemed unbelievable and I began to help farmers adopt minimum tillage techniques.
Then change happened again, the company needed to reorganize and sell to a neighboring dealer. After just experiencing 9/11, we decided to move back home to be with family. I began selling seed again, expanded the acres I was farming, and started working with a local fertilizer company whose products I had been using on our farm for a few years. This company recommended a way for a farmer to successfully transition to no-till without yield drag by addressing the nutrient cycling differences when you stop tillage.
I just couldn’t get California out of my mind and I knew the potential of being able to help Central Valley farmers greatly reduce tillage. So in 2004 I began consulting with farmers about advanced nutrition practices and reducing/eliminating tillage and California Ag Solutions (CAS) was born. After 2 years of commuting, Robyn and I moved back to CA in December of 2005. We began to help more and more farmers, added team members, and grew CAS into a successful business which is today being led by a key team member that we are transitioning ownership to.
While growing CAS, the need arose to develop our own line of biologically based nutrients. This evolved into a R&D, Distribution and Marketing business named Ag Solutions Network (ASN). We realized this gave us the opportunity to move back home and headquarter business in Moline. ASN has member dealers and crop consultants from CA to KS and MT to AZ working to help farmers improve soil health by minimizing tillage, implementing cover crops, and utilizing best irrigation practices. I’m proud that my daughter Dawn is now in charge of day to day operations allowing me to follow my true passion, farming.
In 2016, the grain farm is doing well, CAS and ASN are growing and helping more and more farmers every year, and then I met Gabe Brown. I heard him speak at the National No Till Conference about the amazing work he has done to improve his soils in North Dakota. He had 3 times the amount of organic matter in his soils with a 4 month growing season as I had in a 6 month growing season. Plus he had diversified the farm by selling food to families providing more opportunities for his family and others to be involved in farming. Then I heard him again a few weeks later at the No Till on the Plains Conference. It just seemed too good to be true! What stuck in my head was this picture that Gabe shared showing the difference between a pasture raised egg on healthy soil from his farm vs the highest standard egg from a natural grocery store.
Trust but verify rang in my head. I had seen other good speakers with great photos not always be a true picture of reality. So I scheduled a road trip for my wife’s birthday (oops, but who else takes their wife to an amazing paddleboat cruise on the Missouri River in Pierre, SD for their birthday?) to go see leaders in the regenerative ag movement.
We visited Dwayne Beck, Dan Forgey, Jay Fuhrer and Gabe and Paul Brown. We had deep, frank discussions about the future of agriculture. Dug the soil, watched the animals, saw the freezers, and went to the market. On our way home we both knew what we had to do…
BRING LIVESTOCK BACK TO THE LAND!
The challenge was so mind-blowing, work intensive, and downright scary, this is the picture I took of myself on the way home.
I cannot thank you enough for your support of our farm and food we raise. Everything we do to bring livestock back to land is designed to be best for your health, the animal’s health, the environment’s health and for our community’s health. Your votes (purchases) enable us to make the vision possible. THANK YOU!