Winnebago County Success from the Field – Gehrke Family Farms LLC
Posted with permission from NRCS, wi.nrcs.usda.gov.
Rick Gehrke, of Gehrke Family Farms, LLC, is the 4th generation to farm in his family. His great grandpa started farming in 1934 when he moved to Rush Lake from Chicago. Conservation has always been part of Gehrke Family Farms. In the 1980s Rick’s dad, Ron, worked with the Soil Conservation Service to install grassed waterways and terraces to control soil erosion on their farm. In 2001, Ron sold the dairy cows and their way of farming changed. Rick and his dad now farm about 700 acres and grow corn, soybeans and wheat.
In 2000, Rick and Ron tried no-till for the first time by sowing soybeans into wheat stubble. They have been doing that ever since. No-till corn was introduced in 2008 and continues. Cover crops were introduced into the rotation in 2008 when Rick planted radishes into wheat stubble. Since then, they have been increasing their use of cover crops to where they are now; eighty percent of their crops have a cover crop planted into them.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist, Merrie Schamberger, said “Rick was able to get a 15-year lease from two separate landowners for the construction of a grassed waterway to control gully erosion on rented land. We will be building the waterway with the assistance of a DATCP engineer and EQIP funds. This is cooperation at it’s finest!”
Rick is hoping to be using cover crops on all acres by 2019 and plans to continue to improve his soil health. When asked to give his advice on no-till or cover crops, Rick says, “be patient. It takes time for no-till and cover crops to work. Use the NRCS programs. Being a young farmer, just starting out, it takes the financial burden off the transition of using cover crops and notill.” Rick has learned from his mistakes and would be happy to help anyone who wants to get started with no till or cover crops. Rick can be reached at (920) 369-6369.