By Anne Moore for PPF
In January, Peninsula Pride Farms (PPF) members elected three new board members — Jacob Brey, Scott Jeanquart and Eric Olson. These members all have slightly different backgrounds and bring fresh ideas to the board.
Jacob Brey is a co-owner of Brey Cycle Farm, a fourth-generation family farm established in 1904. The farm currently has about 700 milking cows and raises youngstock and beef animals. The farm has just over 1,000 acres, owned and rented, just south of Sturgeon Bay east towards Lake Michigan. Additionally, They custom raises heifers for several other farmers. The family includes Tony, Moriah, Evan and Alexa and Jacob, Lauren and Rosella. The Breys are fortunate to have a great team of twelve full-time and several part-time employees.
Being a member of PPF has opened Jacob’s eyes to the conservation cropping practices being used by other farmers in the area. The farm has added its own twists on them to fit their needs.
The biggest challenge the Brey family faces when implementing new practices is stepping out of their comfort zone to try something new, but they know being too comfortable hinders progress. Once they got past that initial stage, it became much easier to try more new ideas. One of the unanticipated outcomes Jacob has experienced is how much less time he spend tilling the fields every spring and fall. It is a huge savings on labor, fuel and equipment wear and tear.
Breys know there is a great support group of very talented farmers in PPF that all farm a bit differently. But there are two individuals that have really helped them grow in conservation practices: the farm agronomist Nathen Nysse and Barry Bubolz from NRCS.
The previous generation on the farm before Jacob had its own twist on conservation, whether that was strip cropping, planting winter wheat and crop rotations with alfalfa or diversification with cherry and apple orchards. Now the farm tries to have cover crops of winter forage on most of the land, use no-tillage where applicable, utilize low-disturbance manure injection and implemented a managed grazing pasture for pregnant heifers and beef cattle in 2021.
The Breys are young farmers that strive to be part of a thriving agricultural community on the Door peninsula for many years to come. They raise not only animals but their families and employees there, and their families live on or near the farms. Taking care of the land, water and air is critical to sustaining the business. They enjoy hosting tours to talk about what they do and why they do it, so the community sees and understands that they care.
Scott Jeanquart is part-owner of Bryersquart Farms. They milk 160 cows with 500 total head. He partners with his parents Edward and Kay and his wife Stacie. They work with many types of soil: clay, black dirt and rocky shallow soil.
Being part of PPF has opened Scott’s eyes to other practices out there beyond cover crops. The biggest challenge he has faced with conservation practices was not knowing if it would work on his farm or if it would do more harm than help to the business.
Daniel Olson has helped him incorporate some newer species of grasses and clovers to help with soil health and prevented soil erosion. It is also helping with wetter conditions.
Scott would advise members new to conservation practices to set goals and see what works best for his/her farm. It’s helpful to consider what would be best for your soil and the geography of your land. Whether it’s no-till planting, planting cover crops or planting green, the farmer should know.
One of the greatest benefits he has noticed is that no-tilling allowed him to get out in the field sooner. The farm has been practicing conservation for over 30 years now. They have worked with extension agents implementing filter strips, contour strips, cover crops and buffer zones.
PPF has helped Scott have more knowledge of what certain practices do for the land and at what stage to plant and terminate, etc. The biggest reason he wants his farm to be sustainable is as a third-generation farmer, he hopes to pass it on to the fourth someday. In a few years, his four sons will grow up, and he plans to show them that small changes can make big differences in conservation practices for future generations.
Eric Olson and his brother, Richard bought their farm, Olson Family Farms, from their parents. They are the fifth generation to operate the family farm in southern Door County. Eric’s wife Julaine also works on the farm full-time, and his three children help out when they can. The farm manages 1,150 acres on mostly sandy loam soil. They grow corn, alfalfa, wheat and green beans. They also milk 60 cows robotically.
As members of PPF, they share ideas and practices that have worked and even those that haven’t. By attending Conservation Conversations and field days, they are also able to see firsthand what some of these new conservation practices look like and why to implement them.
They also experienced a similar challenge of change. Olson shared that when a farmer has done tillage and planting a certain way their entire life, it was hard to venture away from the familiar and try a new way. He knew the old practices worked and were successful, even if they had the occasional erosion problem. Putting trust in a new way of farming the land can be scary until it has been done for a year or two, and you begin to see this new way can also be successful and better for the land.
There are several people that have helped the Olsons along their conservation journey. Barry Bubolz from NRCS helped them pick out which variety of seed and the rates when they first started with cover crops. Nick Peltier from Brown County Land and Water helped with their interseeding into standing corn. Nathan Nysse has also been helpful with answering questions regarding general conservation practices.
The Olsons started implementing conservation practices on a small scale for the last five years. However, in recent years, they were having more erosion issues and decided they needed to change. Starting last June with interseeding into corn, they decided to go all in with cover crops and planting into green on all their land.
Eric feels it is important to have a sustainable farm because he wants to have healthy soil and clean water for the future of their farm and any future generations. As farmers, they are passionate about being good stewards of the land, and as they gain knowledge on how to do that better, they feel obligated to put these new conservation methods into practice.