Cover Crops in Organic Farming w/ Kyle Andersen and Don O'Bryan

Interview with Don O’Bryan, Harvest Bounty Brand Lead at The Seed House, and organic farmer Kyle Andersen

Show Notes

We welcome Don O’Bryan and Kyle Andersen to the show. Don operates The Seed House, a seed supplier located in O’Neill, Nebraska, and Kyle is an organic farmer based in Iowa. Don and Kyle discuss a range of topics, including the use of cover crops in organic farming.

Learn more about Avé Organics: www.aveorganics.com

Learn more about The Seed House: www.theseedhouse.com 

Connect with our guest on LinkedIn

#agriculture #covercrops #farming #organicagriculture #organicfarming

Podcast Transcription

INTRO: Welcome to Organics Unpacked, a podcast for the business-minded organic grower — an interview podcast where we hear from the top experts in the commercial organic industry, with a focus on the business elements of organic growing both in and out of the field. You will gain insight and grow your operation. This show is brought to you ad-free by Avé Organics, a Wilbur-Ellis company. To learn more about Avé Organics, visit our program notes. In the meantime, enjoy the show. 

TOM: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in today. Welcome to a new episode of Organics Unpacked, a podcast where we discuss organic farming from a practical view. I’m your host, Tom Buman. Today, I have two guests, Don O’Bryan and Kyle Andersen. Don operates The Seed House in O’Neill, Nebraska, and Kyle’s an organic farmer from Dike, Iowa. Together, they’re going to discuss a topic that fascinates me: the use of cover crops in organic farming. Don and Kyle, welcome to the show. 

KYLE: Thanks, Tom. 

Farming Backgrounds

TOM: Well, before we get started with the actual interview, I’m always interested in the background of people. So, Kyle, can you give me a little background on you, how you got here today? 

KYLE: Yeah, definitely. So I grew up on a farm in northeast Iowa, there by Dike. Grew corn and soybeans, primarily a lot of seed on both the corn and soybean side. We had hogs until about 2015 when we quit doing that and have done cover crops since about 1993-ish, mostly on seed-corn acres, and then stepped in slowly to all of our acres. So I’ve kind of always had a sustainability and a value-added mindset. With that, I went to Iowa State. Out of that, out of Iowa State, I worked for Ag Leader first. So I was on the data side, technology management. Then I worked for a consultant in western Iowa for about six years after that, where we had our own software platform, and I did independent consulting. So I did variable-rate seeding, fertilizer, that kind of stuff. I was your agronomist, basically, and our niche was we didn’t sell any inputs at that time. So that kept me in the independent space.’ After that, I started a business with a few partners on the organic side of things where we help farmers transition to organic. Then, through that, I stepped in slowly to farming some acres in my own name through transition. I call myself kind of a serial entrepreneur. Here in the last few years, I’ve done a few other things, as well, and I have a cover crop business with Don, as well. So looking to expand the Harvest Bounty brands into Iowa, basically. Those things kind of all play together. 

TOM: Great. Thanks, Kyle. How about you, Don? What career path got you here today? 

DON: Little bit different than Kyle’s. I grew up in south-central South Dakota on a small dairy farm, hog stuff, unique. Growing up in the 1980s, I think we’ve all seen those challenges. So kind of wiley to some of the things that go on in life at that point but graduated late 1980s. Went on to start managing a couple of co-ops in South Dakota, mainly in the south-central part, but some in the eastern side and northern. Moved to O’Neill, Nebraska in 1992, working for Farmland Industries at the time. Spent a lot of time in the agronomy part and the sales. As we were developing down there, it’s all center-pivot irrigated. We started to, me and a friend of mine, started to notice the need for some alternative cropping. So, in 2005, we started talking sincerely about it. In 2006, we took a leap of faith. We started a company called The Seed House. A lot of brutal years as we were getting it started, but we mainly focused on cereal rye, cover crops, small grains, and then we also had a corn and soybean line. By 2010, we started to see that business blow up pretty strongly. We actually had a heck of a time staying caught up with the expansion progress that we needed to. Then, in 2015, we sold to Wilbur-Ellis. With that sale, it was to help build us and help us get our expansion caught up. Since then, we have taken on the Harvest Bounty line of cover crops, small grains and non-GMO corn and soybeans, so that has been, probably, unique for us, what we’ve done there.

Mission of The Seed House

TOM: So tell me about The Seed House, what the origin is and what you specialize in.

DON: Like I said, the origin of it, when we started, we were strictly doing small grains, cereal rye, a little bit of oats, but we were trying to fill some needs for some, actually, regional and national companies. We were growing the product in Holt County, Nebraska and then shipping it out. As we started, it was amazing. The first or second year that we started Seed House, we ended up with a load of radish seed. No idea what we’re going to do with it. Get it in there, and then, two years later, we’re buying three loads of radish seeds. So it was a cover crop market that kept growing. We kept advancing with it. Right now, our inventory item list is probably around 400 products, and when you look at Harvest Bounty and The Seed House, Harvest Bounty is strong nationally. We’ve got a strong presence in a mature market in California. Then we also have the PNW, and then all the way across the United States as far east as Michigan and Arkansas. So we have a strong presence with that, and Seed House helps facilitate as much of that as possible. We do rely upon people like Kyle, who helps sell our product and finds us the niche markets and stuff. Especially with the organics, that is a market that is very important to The Seed House and Harvest Bounty and Wilbur-Ellis.

Cover Crop Rotations

TOM: So, Kyle, tell me about your operation. I understand that you’re not fully organic. You might be part, but how’s that operation look?

KYLE: So, for the most part, on our own ground and some of the long-term lease ground, we’ve got seed-corn, seed-bean rotation, for the most part. So we’ll do a cover crop after seed-corn. It’s a unique crop. It comes off early. It’s not a big plant, so we don’t have a lot of biomass there anyway. We started doing that early, so primarily rye, usually with some winter annuals in there, depending on what the market looks like. Then, in the soybean year, we’ll do something, generally, that winter kills, unless there’s a program we are involved with or something that makes more sense that way. Then, on our organic acres, what I’ve done is we’ve got three pieces, basically, that are in transition. This year, we had first-year organic corn, and on that piece, when we took that corn off, we had triticale flown on. Then it’s going to be clover this spring, hopefully, here if the rain holds. This week, we’ll see if I can get some on. Then sorghum-sudangrass probably at the end of May, depending on soil temperatures. Then that will be grazed with cattle all year long. Then, next year, that will be corn again. So that’s my planned rotation going forward and a little bit about our operation. I’ve got enough other irons in the fire that I try to kind of pull things back as far as workload and that kind of stuff. Soybeans make sense in an organic rotation, but I’m not there to babysit. So that’s part of this cover crop. It just takes pressure off of that rotation for us. Operationally, also agronomically, we’re going to have better corn next year because of that weed control from grazing all summer.

TOM: So, kind of, every other year corn, and that’s how you plan to go forward, too, on your organic acres. On your conventional acres, what’s that look like? Is it traditional corn-bean rotation?

KYLE: Yeah, it’s traditional corn and beans, and we don’t have very much what I would call conventional corn. Most of the really productive ground is seed acres. So that’s a little bit dictated by how they want you to set things up and where it is if it’s adjacent to commercial corn or other fields. That’s primarily where our covers have been.

TOM: So, of all of your acres, what percent gets cover crops on them?

KYLE: 100 percent. 

Cover Crops in Organic Farming

TOM: 100 percent. So you are knowledgeable of cover crops kind of in both systems. Great. So I’m getting to some of the questions. Kyle, between your conventional acres, your more traditional acres, and your organic, how does using cover crops differ between those two different systems?

KYLE: Yeah, so the biggest thing with any organic rotation is you have to think much more long term, and that’s something that we’re not used to. Growing up a conventional farmer, that’s something we’re not used to. We always have a silver bullet. We have Roundup glyphosate, or we have some sort of seed trait, or we have something we can fly on in order to put out a fire that we have during the season. And that’s something we don’t have on the organic side. So it takes way, way more setup and pre-planning, and you have to make sure that you know you’re going to fail sometimes, which we’re not really used to. Even though we talk about the downsides of farming, we’re not used to tilling up 160 acres of corn, but that happens if you don’t get it right. So it’s more about taking the things away that can go wrong and using something that works for you.

TOM: So, Don, I have a question. How popular are cover crops in organic systems? It seems, maybe to me, that feels a little new, but how is it?

DON: It’s a necessity in the organic world. The organic crop, we have some great products with the nutrients that we have available through Avé, but they also need to grow some of their own nitrogen. We’re doing that with clovers, legumes, any sort of legume, whether it’s clover, a bean or vetch. They’re critical in the organic world.

Helping Farmers Use Cover Crops

TOM: So, then, Don, through your operation of The Seed House, do you provide advice and consulting for people that are using cover crops in an organic system and a conventional system, as far as that goes?

DON: Yes. At The Seed House, we get to see both sides at a high level, the conventional and the organic. We know that the organic world needs the cover crop. We’re starting to see the conventional world come in and use it a little bit more actively, maybe following the lead of what the organic people are doing, which seems backwards, but the traded people are watching. It’s really cool to see how that has happened. We keep looking at the crops that are getting grown out there. In our expansion, five years ago, we would see a little mustard out here, and now we’re seeing more and more of it because of nematode control. We’ve got the cereal rye, which does a phenomenal job of weed control, whether it’s on the pigweed, the Palmer, all that stuff. So, I mean, we’ve got a lot of products. Do we have it all figured out? We absolutely do not, but we can narrow it down and give a little bit better advice than shooting from the hip all the time. 

KYLE: And I think, to Don’s point, that’s really important, and something we don’t have is resources, as far as how to implement that stuff. Okay, what’s my next step? I want to do this, and how do I get there? And that’s nice to have somebody, like Don, you can lean on because most people, your seed guy, somebody at the co-op, your banker, crop insurance person, go on down the line. They don’t know anything about organic. So it’s nice to have a resource and somebody that can help you put something in and step into that rotation the right way.

DON: In every rotation, that’s the one thing. It’s different. Yours and your operation that’s two miles away, or your friend’s, is completely different.

KYLE: Totally different.

DON: It’s always different. You’ve got to be able to listen and follow the lead with what they need.

Cover Crop Recommendations

TOM: So, Don, when a farmer comes in, and maybe they’re new to cover crops, and they’re in an organic system, what’s your recommendation? What are some of the best mixes they might use, or where do you start? Then, how do you kill it if you don’t have traditional herbicides like Roundup? 

DON: So I think the one thing that we run into quite often with some of our producers, as they’re starting into it, sometimes they read cover crop literature, whether it’s a farm magazine. For us in north-central Nebraska, stuff that happens in Illinois and Iowa is not relevant. And I think there’s stuff that happens out there that ain’t relevant. You look at North Dakota, which is a phenomenal state for Wilbur-Ellis. They also have a uniqueness up there, but I think you’ve got to listen, to look at the areas that they’re in. But the main complaints that we have with people who fail are when they follow a magazine or Illinois, and they try it in north-central Nebraska, and it doesn’t work. And they say, Well, this cover crop thing ain’t right.’ No, you got to listen to the local people, figure out what you need to do. Maybe you can’t get away with a seven or nine-way blend, but maybe a three-way blend is the way you need to go. That’s the important thing.

TOM: Just make sure you localize.

DON: You localize your market. Don’t get caught up into the regional or nationalization of all the products.

KYLE: Well said.

Cover Crop Challenges

TOM: So, Kyle, what are the biggest challenges in the cover crops in your organic system? What do you think, like if you had to talk to somebody and tell them what your challenges are, what would those be?

KYLE: Sure. So I would say, for the most part, it’s the same challenges. We just have less tools. So, as far as termination goes, we don’t have the same amount of tools. As far as, like the silver bullet kind of thing, we don’t have something to just take this mess off the table and the downside that people aren’t used to. Maybe if you plan on rolling and crimping some rye, we’re going to plan on, once in a while, we’re going to till up that acre of corn because we didn’t get the right kill on the rye. We’re not used to that on the conventional side. We’re used to hitting it with another dose of herbicide or something like that. Also, it’s a much longer-term plan. So, when you’re thinking about fixing N or getting a cover out there, you just have to think so much farther ahead. Those would be the two main things.

TOM: So I often hear from organic farmers that it’s not even about this year. It’s about years out. You can’t just decide to get up one day and say I’m going to plant soybeans instead of corn because you have to be in this rotation. You have to be managing it. So, in your organic system, on those times when things go wrong and you might be out there tilling it up when you don’t expect to, is that typically something that just happens because of mother nature? Or is it something you typically missed?

KYLE: It’s generally mother nature, or it’s your own management and timing. So, with the rye example, if you’re planning on rolling it, it has to be perfect at that boot stage. And not only this plant in the corner but every plant in the field has to be at that exact stage. So, if we try to roll it, and half of it wasn’t that way, then we only get half of a kill. And if the corn is there, then that half of the field’s not going to come up. So we have issues then. We either need to till up or change directions. Chop it or something different.

DON: Timing window is huge, what most of you guys have to pull off in such a short time.

KYLE: Talking about the uniqueness in different regions, that’s what’s nice in Don’s area. They could turn the water on and off. For us, generally, moisture is an issue. Either, generally, it’s too wet to get it in, or it’s too wet to terminate. Or it’s dry enough to terminate. Then you get a rainstorm, and you can’t plant for 10 days. So timing that way too. Even if you do get a good kill, you might lose some bushels there.

Meeting Farmers’ Needs

TOM: So, Don, I was going to ask you what cover crops you recommend, but what I hear you saying is it depends on the area. But tell me what thought process you go through, like to decide for an organic farmer, how to recommend a seed variety for them. What type of things do you take into consideration?

DON: I think a lot of the time, and Kyle, I want you to jump in at any point, but when we start doing the recommendations, you take Kyle, for instance. He has corn every other year with a cattle cycle in between or a forage crop. We’ve got guys who’ll do corn, small grain and then try coming back in with a soybean or another grain crop. So each of those guys have different, unique needs in the nutrient cycle. Then, also, depending on whether they have nutrients available to them, whether it’s manure or whatever.

KYLE: I think that’s a big thing. If they have livestock involved, that changes the game in a big way.

DON: In a huge way. Or having access to that. So I’d like to tell you that, though, a lot of times, we’re using cereal, some type of cereal. We’re using a vetch or a clover, using a bean, P, but it changes so much. Those were trying to be our core components that we’re using, but it’s always a cereal and a legume of some sort, but it really varies per operation. All the cover crops that we do, we don’t have a blend just sitting there, that, Hey, this fits you and you and you and you.’ We don’t have that. We custom-blend each and every one, according to the needs.

KYLE: And I think it’s different, back to the regionality difference. There are some cost share programs that are very unique to the county and to the state. And Don and I talk about that all the time, where, based on incentives, it may or may not make sense for somebody to do it. So, for me, a lot of times, it’s whatever. Let’s use that profit share, and let’s use something to get you to baby step into it and see how you like it. Let’s make sure we don’t fail year one, and then let’s add to it as we keep going.

Incentive Programs for Farmers

TOM: So do the incentive programs that you talk about, are they generally flexible enough to allow a producer to put on what they need? Or are they pretty static in saying you have to put on this at this rate? 

KYLE: It depends where we’re at.

DON: It depends where they’re at. I think, for the most part, they’re very lenient and want to make it work.

KYLE: Yeah, it seems like it. And I know in some of the places, like around Don’s area, they’ve got requirements where you have to have multispecies. In my area, a lot of the watersheds we’re in don’t have multispecies. So they’ll just say you need to have X pounds of oats or rye, for the most part. 

TOM: But they do allow for multiple species if you want to do that?

KYLE: Right. They just don’t require it, usually, which is the main difference between our two areas.

Working with Agronomists

TOM: So, Don, it must be a challenge, the agronomists on staff making recommendations. All of us ag’ kids are traditionally from a corn-bean traditional thing. We go through our land grant college. We’re trained in that. How do you choose agronomists that work on your staff that can help people like Kyle make decisions?

DON: Yeah, as an employer, you’d never want to have someone who’s traveled a lot as an employee. But when I look at my pathway of being in south-central South Dakota with the sorghums, the wheat, going into north-central South Dakota with the sunflowers, the safflowers, and being an agronomist, you get to see all those things. Sometimes you want to have that agronomist that has actually been part of all those crops, actually growing them rather than reading about them. So that’s who we look for. That’s the type of person we want. And the other person, we want someone like Kyle, who’s very dedicated to what he does, loyal to what he does. A lost art sometimes, but someone who wants to make everyone around him better. We’re fortunate that those are the type of people we look for.

TOM: Do you have agronomists that specialize in organic cover crops, or does kind of everybody have the same basis?

DON: Right now, we are all kind of on the same basis. As far as agronomists on staff, we are very limited. We have a good sales team. I would call us more of a sales team than agronomists. Very well rounded, and we do a tremendous amount of the forage crops also. So our customer base is rather huge. It continues to grow. I would say that we do want someone who’s well-rounded any more than seeing a lot of these crops because you start looking at 400 or 500 inventory items that you choose from. 

KYLE: A little overwhelming.

Benefits of Using Cover Crops

TOM: So, Kyle, on your farm, what are the real benefits to doing cover crop’ in your organic system? What are the real drivers that make you want to do cover crops’ in your organic system?

KYLE: So there would be three main things. One would be weed control. We want ground coverage out there in the fall, early spring. Two would be tillage, which kind of goes hand in hand with weed control. Less tillage if we have better weed control. Then third would be fixing nitrogen, primarily, but other nutrients and building organic matter. So building the swale up in that rotation. So, depending if we’re going to soybeans or coming after soybeans, going to corn or something that needs some N, that might be a place to put in that kind of cover crop. Either way, regardless if we’re coming in front of soybeans, we want to be building organic matter, conserving nutrients and controlling weeds. 

TOM: So I assume a real challenge would be the combination of organic farming, no-till and cover crops. 

KYLE: Yes.

Incorporating No-Till Farming

TOM: Obviously, cover crops have always been a part of organic farming, but how, then, do you incorporate no-till into that?

KYLE: I think, yeah, it takes a crimper or something like that, and I would argue that I’m currently no-till every other year. We’re not tilling after my corn crop again until that next corn crop, and I’m trying to do that from a labor standpoint, more than anything. But that helps take some pressure off where, if you’re doing corn and soybeans with tillage every other year, there’s just so much more pressure on that rotation. I think a roller is a big, important piece. I’ve seen a lot of guys, and I’ve helped a lot of guys, do that really well. I’ve also helped a lot of guys look at some really sad corn and watch them get the disc out. And some of them in Don’s area, even, and that’s not a fun conversation! Being realistic about the fact that you’re going to fail, I think, is really important. 

DON: It’s a huge factor.

KYLE: And even just with conventional cover crops, it’s the same thing. I would give the same advice. Step into something you know and works well for you. Then slowly step that up as you continue, as far as labor and your operation goes.

Sharing Hardships in Organic Farming

TOM: So, Don, I know that it depends, right? I’ve learned that, where you’re at and what your operation is, but if you had to recommend a system that is least likely to fail where you’re using cover crops in an organic system, what does that look like?

DON: When I watch people step into organics, as they transition, probably the most important thing that they can do, and it doesn’t involve me, is they reach out to a Kyle.’ They reach out to someone already doing it, sharing those accidents or those brave moments that turned into a disaster. But I think if you get someone who can communicate with you, and the one thing in the organic world, I’ve never seen a group so willing to share so much information. No one likes to share hardships, but you guys do.

KYLE: I think that’s changed in the last few years, even more so. It’s been even better. 

DON: No one likes to talk about hardships, but you guys have no problem sharing. You don’t want to see the next guy do that, so that’s your first step. Then, once you get that done, I mean, then there have got to be goals. There are goals for economic return, and then there are goals for sustainable passing the land off. What’s your true goal? Then, once we get that, we can build around that rather quickly. Economics is always important. It’s always in the bottom line, but the sustainable part seems to resonate with a few. There’s an age group there that that’s their goal. 

KYLE: Definitely. I think that’s important to know, what the farmer’s goal is in order to do that because you take two 2000-acre growers, and they have entirely different goals.

DON: I don’t know if I answered your question, but that’s how I would portray it to get started with.

Transitioning to Organic Farming

TOM: So, organic growers. I know the last year has been more of a challenge getting groups of people together. But when you think before that, and in the months to come, how can somebody learn more about organic? Like, what are the mechanisms? Are there field days? How would you kind of link people together to get them more information on using cover crops, using no-till in organics, just transitioning to organics?

KYLE: There are quite a few resources out there, companies that would help you transition and put that plan together. There are input companies and a lot of people that put on field days and different resources, things like that. I would separate those into two categories, and one would be, We’re here for business reasons.’ And the other one would be, We’re here just because we want to be.’ If I’m a farmer, I would put myself into one of those two camps and try to separate all the resources in that way because those are two very different camps. And I think, also, if you’ve got somebody like Don in your area, lean on them hard. You can say, What do we do? Who else do you have around that’s done it? What can I see?’ Because you want that localized knowledge. You can go to the MOSES deal in Wisconsin. They’re doing different things than we’re doing. And some of that’s helpful, and that’s great, but you need to be able to ground-truth it to what your soil is and what your area is like.

DON: That ground-truthing is something that — I think, through all the passion and the movement and everyone struggling to stay caught up — that ground-truthing is one of the most important things, whether it’s your row crop, whether it’s how we evaluate our cover crop.

KYLE: Even logistics. Do you have somewhere to deliver it? Do you have some way to get seed? Do you have a way to get nutrients on your farm?

DON: It’s a big gap that we’ve got to fill in there.

Cover Crop Complaints

TOM: So, Don, selling cover crop seed, if anybody hears complaints about it, I’m sure you do. What are the top complaints that you get about any cover crops in an organic system?

DON: I think when I look at the complaints that I’ve had to deal with, getting the product in August and then seeding it in October-November, that’s usually a complaint, even though they had it in plenty of time. Seeding date is important. I think another thing that I run into quite often is on the multispecies blends, a seven or nine-way mix. It might have cereal grain in there, but they go out and they seed it at a seeding depth for cereal rye instead of the rest of the components. And you end up having three or four components come up instead of the seven. So seeding depth is really important. We run into that quite often. Then, I think, sometimes we run into expectations. In a cover crop, we’re seeding for anywhere from 17 to 35 pounds. It’s not a solid seed. It’s a cover crop, and sometimes there are expectations, once it starts coming up, that they just expect it to be a carpet up there. Honestly, that’s not what we want. We want the ground to be covered, but we want nutrient builds in there to sustain.

TOM: So, Kyle, a couple of us heard this term planting green.’ What does that mean to you?

KYLE: That would be, for me, that means you would plant into a cover crop and then terminate it after you plant it.

TOM: Okay. So you’re kind of keeping a green carpet out there.

KYLE: Correct. Then, depending on the crop, hopefully, that lays over. And, depending on what your cover was, as well, that lays over and leaves a mat or mulch for the time being until that deteriorates.

Soil Health & Cover Crops

TOM: I know you have a real interest in soil health. Talk about the soil health aspects of starting with organics, adding in cover crops, adding in no-till. What are you seeing on your farm? 

KYLE: For the most part, we started doing covers on our seed-corn ground, like in 1993, something like that. So, if you went out in that field then, you would see that rye the following year with soybeans. You would see that rye and that organic matter be there for a very long time, after 4th of July, almost August, sometimes. And we’ve done that rotation for a long time. What we’ve seen is that, now, you go out in that field on the 4th, and there is no rye left. None to be seen. You’ve got to keep juicing that system up. So what we need to do is have a living plant there as much as possible, and that helps from a compaction standpoint. Organic matter, we always want to build, but it mostly helps with nutrient cycling, so that you’re always having those nutrients released as you go through the year. So I think that’s what I’m pushing towards, is to try to have a living root as many months of the year as we can.

TOM: So I have to ask this one thing. A lot of interest in carbon sequestration, storing carbon and getting farmers paid for it. Good thing or bad thing?

KYLE: I think it’s a great thing. I just think we don’t have it all figured out yet. So this is similar to the oil and gas industry that did the same thing. The oil and gas industry would buy credits in order to offset their carbon footprint. Very, very similar. I haven’t decided for sure what camp we need to be in. So there are two. There’s one which is a carbon cooperative, basically a marketplace, and there are several companies out there doing that. I think that’s great. A lot of those are long-term commitments at this point, and I don’t think we understand enough about measuring that carbon for me to want to jump into that today. Now, I think, probably by the middle of summer or something like that, where we kind of have our ducks in a row, some of those companies are going to go by the wayside. A few of them will have it figured out, and I think there’ll be a good opportunity to capture some stuff there. And the other camp is just paying you for, basically, practices that you’re doing that we know sequester carbon. So that’s kind of been the camp that I’ve been in so far while slowly watching the carbon cooperative thing, just to know when the time is right. Mostly, it’s just trying to understand how you measure it. And the other side is a lot of guys that Don and I work with have been doing covers and sustainable things for a long time, and a lot of those carbon cooperative companies measure the change. So somebody who’s done it since 1990 or whatever, we don’t understand enough yet about how to capture the work that you’ve already done, and we want to make sure we credit that. 

TOM: It is always hard to kind of decide how far back you’re going to go and kind of capture credits.

KYLE: And there are a few companies out there that will pay you for prior practices and things but, again, recordkeeping and that kind of stuff. 

DON: It’s huge. 20 years ago, that wasn’t a thought. 

KYLE: Right. Yeah, we didn’t think about it then.

What Farmers Should Know

TOM: Well, I want to be respectful of your time. But in the last few minutes, Don, if you had two minutes with a farmer, and you were sitting at the kitchen table, what would you tell them about The Seed House and Harvest Bounty to capture their attention, and why should they be calling you?

DON: I think I would lead with the fact that we are a strong company, that we have every aspect of the organic. With Avé, we have the availability of the manure for applications. We have all the cover crops. We have the knowledge. We have a great workforce. We have a great sales team outside of our existing footprint, with people like Kyle, and we all communicate with each other. When we’re communicating, we’re communicating for the sake of our customer, not the sake of the company.

TOM: And Kyle, if you had two minutes with a farmer, why should a farmer go for organics? Why should they transition if they’re doing a conventional system now?

KYLE: Sure. I guess I kind of see the way that agriculture is going. I think scale is going to be really important, and capital is not that available for somebody maybe under 45, that kind of age bracket right now. So, if you’re looking for a way to expand that doesn’t mean buying ground, this is a way to expand economically to build your soil. But that also doesn’t mean it’s right for every acre. So think about it strategically in that way. You want your rotation the right way, but this is an opportunity instead of becoming a seed dealer, putting up a hog building, whatever that might be. This might be the opportunity to bring your sun home. Because you can make more money off of that acre that you’ve got and be better for your soil. And it just takes some pressure off of the whole rotation.

TOM: Well, Kyle, Don, thanks for being a guest today on Organics Unpacked. We want to thank the listening audience for listening to another episode of the podcast, and be sure to tune in every week when we unpack another facet of organic farming. Drop us a note if you have a topic that you’d like to cover and/​or if you’d have a specific guest you’d like to hear from. So thank you guys again.

TOM: Thank you, Tom.

DON: Thanks, Tom.

OUTRO: Thank you for listening to Organics Unpacked. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing and giving this show a five-star rating and review, so we can continue to help organic growers improve their operations.