By Anne Moore for PPF
Dave Dalebroux and his brother Dennis farm about 700 acres in Kewaunee County. Most of the acres they farm are on side hills, so about half of their acres are strip cropping and contour strips. They took over the farm from their parents who had been farming since the 1960s. It was their father who started the conservation journey back when moldboard plowing was a common practice.
He teamed up with Kewaunee County Soil and Water to use a program that would help with their erosion issues. The farm set up contour strips and waterways to make sure they were staying in compliance with highly erodible soils. They were one of the first farms in the area to use these practices.
The farm’s continuous goal is to always be looking to improve things on the highly erodible spots. That’s where Peninsula Pride Farms has become a great asset to Dave and Dennis. They are learning from other PPF members about practices such as cover crops and have great resources to ask the ‘how’ questions to.
One of the biggest challenges the brothers have is getting the cover crop established and growing before it’s too late in the season. Weather is always a factor, but they do their best to get into the fields right after harvest, sometimes even when the chopper is just leaving the field.
The primary cover they use is oats. They like this crop because it does a nice job of covering the soil and dies over winter, so in most cases they can come back in spring and no-till right into the land.
Advice Dave would give to other farmers looking to get started in soil health practices is to start slow.
“Start slow and to talk to other farmers that are actually doing it. Not every practice works on every farm; however, there are people like Peninsula Pride Farms members to help you along the journey as well as agronomists,” Dave said.
Some of the practices that the farm has done actually worked better than they thought it would. For example, no-tilling corn into a growing alfalfa field or a burn-down alfalfa field. They had a lot of success with those practices without any tillage.
Dave and Dennis both want the farmland to be around for years to come. When they took over from their parents, they knew they wanted the farm to be able to continue.
“You want the land to be as good if not better than you found it,” Dave said. “It also needs to be profitable, so focus on implementing practices that pay off.”
Dave feels PPF is a great organization and is glad there is a source of information like this where farmers are learning from each other to implement these things.