Like any family farm, the Harbach and Schrack families work together to make things tick. That includes Jim and Lisa’s family of Doug and his wife, Ang; Andy and his wife, Tori; and Angela and her husband, Mikey. On Kevin’s side it’s his son, Nathan, and his sister, Karen, and her son, Adam. All the grandchildren pitch in, too. “I can’t emphasize enough how much we appreciate our entire crew,” Harbach says.
NO MORE PLOWS
Harbach says they got into no-till mostly because folks got tired of picking rocks. “We live in a limestone valley with shallow soils and we picked a lot of stones every time we tilled the ground. We no-tilled because we didn’t want to pick stones,” Harbach says. “Years later we began to realize the advantages in the soil structure and lack of erosion that comes with no-till practices.”
Fast forward to the early 2000s and Harbach started using cover crops, again without thinking about sustainability benefits. “We started planting rye as a cover crop to get the feed advantage of the double crop,” he says. Today cereal rye is seeded over all of the crop acres, with the exception of multispecies grasses that are planted after small grains crops.
The rest of the cover crops are worked back into the soil, part of the management practices that have enabled Harbach to build incredible soil profiles. In Harbach’s mind, keeping soil, sediment and nutrients where they belong is essential.
NO SUNSHINE SPILL
“We’ve always been told that the soil feeds the plants. What we’ve learned over the last 10 years is that it’s the plants that feed the soil,” Harbach says. Their goal is to keep ground covered at all times, to avoid what Harbach calls sunshine spill. “If you don’t have crops growing on ground for three or four months at a time covering the ground, that’s basically sunshine spill. The sunshine that’s hitting the bare ground and not hitting a plant is not feeding the soil. When you have soils that are bare you basically have a factory that’s shut down.”