By Gil Gullickson
2019 AAEA First Place Winner, On-Farm Production Category
2019-2020 AAEA President
Executive Editor, Crops Technology Successful Farming
Click here to read Gullickson’s full article, Surefire Ways to Sustain Your Farmland.
Back in the late 1950s, the late Lamar Hunt sat on an airplane and formed the beginnings of a new professional football league. On airline stationary, he scribbled the number of teams, players, potential team owners and other league features.
Then, the future owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and architect of the American Football League (AFL) got off the plane at the end of the flight…and told no one.
At least for a year or two. Then, Hunt started talking with some folks with trucking money and oil money and insurance money and formed the AFL. Eventually, Hunt helped spearhead a 1970 merger with the more established National Football League that spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Of course, Sustainability—which ran in the February 2019 issue of Successful Farming—has about as much in common with the old AFL as a lumbering linebacker has in common with a ballet dancer. One shared feature, though, was an October 2016 interview I had with Jonathan Lundgren, an agroecologist and CEO of Blue Dasher Farms, Estelline, South Dakota. Lundgren is a great scientist and thinker, and he poked some holes in double-barreled cropping system of the Midwest—corn and soybeans—and how to resolve them.
Excited, I returned home to Des Moines…and told no one.
At least for a while. I knew it was a good story, but a combination of more pressing stories and a nagging feeling that it needed more support caused me to delay it and delay it. In the meantime, I conducted similar interviews with farmers, soil scientists, agronomists, commodity group leaders, and others along the lines that although productive, the predominant corn-soybean rotation has some cracks appearing in it.
By themselves, some interviews would have made decent stories. Joined together, though, they supplemented Lundgren’s concerns and solutions with their own. All told, the story used information from 11 field days, farm visits, and meetings compiled over 2.5 years.
This story had a rough title of Why Not the Best, but Dave Kurns, our editorial content director; Matt Strelecki, our art director; and I thought the challenges and practices outlined in the story fit all the talk that’s been going on about sustainability. We took the phonetic definition of sustainability for the title to differentiate it from similar stories.