How We Farm

How We Farm

Agriculture is ever-changing. Consolidation is becoming a reality in row-crop farming as it has been for decades in poultry, hogs, and cattle. In order to cultivate and grow a thriving, profitable business in a climate of consolidation and to ensure the long-term success of this family-run operation for the future, we believe in the practices described below.  To read more about our fantastic teams of specialized employees, click here.



We believe it is important to consistently produce high quality agricultural commodities and services through:
innovative and sustainable business practices, operational efficiency, and
strong professional partnerships.

Innovative and sustainable business practices are the foundation of a solid agricultural business.  Sterling Heritage Farms was one of the first farms in the county to go 100% no-till almost twenty years ago.  After five to seven years of no-till, there was a definite yield increase, as much as two to three times normal yield in dry years.  Sustainable innovation also means using the latest technology and research available to us in a way that maximizes yield and profit as well as promotes good stewardship of the land for continued maximum potential production. These innovations include soil sample analysis, GPS, variable rate application, and high-quality seed germplasm. 

Operational efficiency is the key to optimal performance over time.  A full line of up-to-date equipment means less down-time due to breakdowns.  It also means more timely task accomplishment.  Standard operating procedures help us to replicate effective processes and improve performance.  Hiring skilled employees, each with their own areas of expertise, means that together we will accomplish greater attention to detail and a better product over-all.  Finally, having enough on-farm storage capacity for 100% of our production means that we are not at the mercy of local elevators.  Cutting and storage can take place at any time of the night or day, which can mean the difference between profit and loss in the event of approaching inclement weather.

Strong professional partnerships are the backbone of a successful farm.  Landowners and investors are a top priority at Sterling Heritage Farms.  We go to great lengths to keep our landowners informed and foster a climate of collaboration. The blessing and responsibility of stewarding the ground in our care results in our livelihood.  We are grateful to our landowners for their trust and do all we can to maintain strong communication with them.  In addition to the Landowner page on this site, we send out a regular newsletter, periodic mailings, and have a dedicated Landowner Relations Specialist to be attentive to landowner needs. 

Now you have read about the overall philosophy that undergirds how we farm.  Below are two articles that explain two specific logistical ways that we farm.  Tillage practices and the technology used in a farming operation are likely the two most important factors in maximizing yield production while maintaining excellent stewardship of the land and resources.

Tillage Practices

Tillage practices and the use of precision technology are two major factors in the health and success of an operation. 

Sterling Heritage Farms was one of the first farming operations in the county to go completely no-till almost twenty years ago.  The overwhelming research of the benefits of no-tilling are compelling:

  • dramatically less erosion
  • dramatically less leaching of nutrients from the soil and improved soil quality
  • less fuel usage and pollution
  • moisture retention
  • improved yields

It is in times of drought that no-till can really make an impact; most especially ground that has been no-tilled for three years or more.  In order for the nutrients in no-till residue to be available for growing plants, the organic compounds must be broken down and the nitrogen and phosphorous has to mineralize- a process that takes three or more years in a normal weather cycle.  In the Kansas State Extension Agronomy E-Update for July, 2012, researchers noted the following regarding the value of crop residue in increasing moisture in your soil:  “ One general rule commonly used is that no-tilling into a good residue cover will increase the amount of available water by 2 inches during the cropping season….So in environments where water is limiting, which is most of Kansas, 2 inches of water could be worth almost 34 bushels of corn or 12 bushels of wheat. At $7 per bushel for corn, that is $238 per acre. Even at roughly half that value for wheat, that places a high value on residue in our dry climate.”  Obviously there is benefit in the soil for any crop planted in no-till residue.  We have seen first hand the changes in soil conditions and yields.  In fact, the Kansas Bankers Assosiation saw improvement as well because they awarded Sterling Heritage Farms the Soil Conservation Award for improving soil conditions. 

 

 

Technology

Technology, and precision technology in particular, also helps us be good stewards, maximize yield, and maintain optimal efficiency.  Sterling Heritage Farms utilizes zone management in our fields.  We currently use Case AFS technology including RTK guidance, swath control, and variable rate application to document field data.  GPS and GIS systems help us record and monitor soil fertility, yields, and inputs.  We are using RTK guidance to variably apply fertilizer and plant crops.  This allows us to maximize our efficiency and also helps to control today’s increasing costs as well as reduce the amount of chemical on fields.  Our agronomist has over twenty years of experience, a tremendous asset when it comes to variable seeding, variable rate application of fertilizers and herbicides, and overall management of crop rotation.  Using variable rate seeding when planting allows us not to over populate the ground in an area that will not produce growth, while maximizing yield potential in more fertile areas.  Variable rate application of chemicals allows for more precise application of needed minerals in certain areas of the field, while not over-applying in areas already saturated.  All of these practices result in minimized usage of chemicals, maximization of yield, and the best possible stewardship of the ground.