The Future Of Regenerative Agriculture

Tony Pierick is a farmer from Dodge County that has a family operation of 200 cows and an 1100 acre grain farm. He does cash grain and custom farming for others and cares about keeping his soil healthy. Pierick started the Dodge County Farmers For Healthy Soil, Healthy Water Group in 2017 and is the president. He says they are forward thinking and  moving forward with regenerative agriculture. He reflects back on what made him want to start this group and where it is now.

“In 2015, Land Conservation called me and said, we’ve got an issue in our county, the lake associations, as we got three lakes in Dodge County,  want to impose a lot more restrictions,” says Pierick. “They don’t want their runoff coming into their lakes, they don’t want the phosphorus in their lakes, and they want to impose a lot of restrictions on what the farmers can and can’t do.”

Pierick was one of the farmers on the panel that sat down with the Department of Natural Resources, lake associations, members of the county and land conservation to come up with a solution to this problem. He put together a meeting of over 250 farmers and educated them on what regenerative agriculture is and how it can benefit everyone. He then formed the Dodge County Farmers For Healthy Soil, Healthy Water Group.

That group recently received a grant through DATCP and is using the money for a cover crops program. They are providing first time cover crop farmers $25 an acre for using that practice. The farmers also have a one to one match for every acre they put in. Pierick says he is working hard to educate farmers in his area about the opportunities regenerative agriculture can provide them and the support the Dodge County Farmers For Healthy Soil, Healthy Water Group can give.

Pierick is a farmer himself however he does not use crop insurance. He says that through the years as a dairy farmer, if there were disasters he would feed it to his dairy. But over the years as he began cash cropping as well, he says he insures himself through regenerative farming. 

“This whole regenerative side is more of an insurance factor than paying this insurance out,” explains Pierick. “Crop insurance is kind of not really the best thing because it’s making poor farmers stay poor. They don’t have to do the practices. They can always guarantee they can lean on that insurance, where if you’re doing it on your own, you want to be a hundred percent  sure you’re that crop survives and you have a good crop.”

On his farm, Pierick also does not do any tillage. He eliminated tillage in the 90s and has minimized soil disturbance while still maximizing biodiversity. He does not have to worry as much about wet conditions and trying to get in the fields. 

Pierick adds, “Moving forward, we have to have this. I mean, we’ve got no choice out there. Agriculture has got to go regenerative. People are demanding a nutrient dense product and we don’t have nutrient density in our grains and our cereals and anything because of the practices we’re doing using a lot of synthetics.”