Farmers are always eager to update their practices with the promise of better results. It’s only recently that available science has provided some breathing room to innovate without jeopardizing the business.
Kyle Mehmen’s connection to farming goes back five generations. The tools he uses today are in many ways unrecognizable from what his great-grandfather used, but he still leans on wisdom gained from those before him to navigate the rapidly shifting agricultural sector. Kyle now runs a successful corn and soybean operation in Plainfield, Iowa through MBS Family Farms, where he is constantly evaluating opportunities to improve his practices and profitability.
The farm sector has been rocked by a major push for more sustainable, climate-forward practices in recent years. Like other farmers, Kyle understands that his farming practices will impact his children and grandchildren if they choose to farm as well. Long before “sustainability” became a buzzword, he tells us, “what was important to me and my family is that there is something there for my children to come back to, should they want to.”
Kyle leans into a form of sustainability that strikes a healthy balance with profitability. “We can’t give up everything that we’re doing in lieu of being profitable, because there won’t be anything for the kids.” He knows that his struggle to remain profitable and care for the farm’s longevity are intertwined, so he remains vigilant to opportunities to boost soil health while watching money go in the right direction. It’s MBS Family Farms’ ultimate win-win scenario.
While it’s a simple enough strategy, improving long-established practices is anything but easy. “We usually get punched in the mouth and something messes up, and then we learn from that. Then we move on and try to always scale whatever practices we’re implementing.”
For the Mehmen family, stewardship of the land has always been part of farming — sustainability in its present form is just the most recent development. Kyle still remembers his father bringing home their first no-till planting drill. “My grandma came out and said, ‘So how many of your soybeans did you plant this way?’ He said, ‘All of them,’ and she said, ‘I hope that works…’”
Farm practices have to shift over time to match evolving needs, and Kyle’s seen it firsthand. Commercial fertilizers were cheaper and more reliable in his father’s day, so the decision to buy and apply was simple. Times have changed, prices have climbed, and growers’ understanding of soil health has deepend. Today, Kyle is more prescriptive in treating his fields. At the same time, precision fertilization has become easier and the savings are significant, and Kyle also knows that “putting the right nutrients in the right place just makes good logical sense from a longevity standpoint.”
With so many new opportunities popping up to address the nutritional needs of his crops and soil, SOURCE provides Kyle with a buffer to explore promising options. Farmers today have an enormous upper hand with available science like SOURCE to guarantee better results, especially when it comes with a guarantee from the folks who design the product.
“Using a product like Source in either corn or soybeans makes a lot of sense. I think of it as a consistent known nutrient supply that we don’t have to account for with a commercial fertilizer. So I’ve just used Source as almost a baseline to say, ‘Here’s where I’m starting from.’ Then I add commercial fertilizer on top of that, and that’s what I’m varying more or less.”
Elevating his baseline can only be a good thing, but Kyle doesn’t view SOURCE as a fix-all solution. He’s seized the opportunity to dive into the microbiome with a deeper understanding of how Sound’s product can consistently benefit his crops. It’s another point along the trajectory toward a more sustainable future which unlocks the soil’s greatest potential.
“We’ve just really grazed the tip of the iceberg with what our soils are capable of,” Kyle says. “The more tools that we have in the toolbox, the more knowledge that we have about what’s really happening in the soil microbiome, and the more we can truly make ourselves more sustainable.”