As its name suggests, Neighborhood Dairy is a partnership built around a shared vision among friends, family, and yes…neighbors. In 1995, brothers Mark and Joe Van Asten, along with Jerry Evers and Vernon Newhouse came together to found Neighborhood Dairy. Over the last two decades, the operation has grown and evolved, bringing in new ideas and new faces. Today, Vernon and Jerry have stepped down as an owner, and Mark and Joe have all had sons who have worked in some capacity on the farm. As they look to the future of their operation, they are excited to introduce new conservation practices into their system.
Over the past few years, Neighborhood Dairy has begun to adopt conservation practices. They started small in alfalfa fields, where instead of spraying the fields in the fall, they allowed the alfalfa to overwinter so that it could absorb snowmelt and spring rains. When the fields were dry, they sprayed the alfalfa off and no-till planted into the residue. The team recognized that these practices have worked on farms throughout the watershed and that they have provided similar, if not better, yields. Through their personal experience, they have seen financial savings as a result of reduced inputs. Fewer passes means less wear and tear on their machines, less fuel costs, and less man-power to run the operation. For Neighborhood Dairy, they’re working to reduce their input, while maintain, if not exceed, their current yields.
As one of the newest additions to the Fox Demo Farms program, Neighborhood Dairy has watched others in the project adopt these practices and have seen their success with cover crops and no-till planting. While they recognize that conservation agriculture is a new approach and that there is a learning curve associated with these practices, they’ve seen how it can positively impact others and are eager to take steps towards implementing more of these practices on their own farm. As we all know, the last couple of years have been wet, making it challenging to get cover crops planted. The heavy rains have made it difficult for Neighborhood Dairy to implement the plan they had set out; however, they continue to work with their agronomist and the Fox Demo Farms staff to plant as many cover crops as possible. Having a plan was important, but not getting discouraged when things didn’t go accordingly was equally as important. Despite getting fewer acres planted than they had hoped, Neighborhood Dairy used two low-disturbance manure injectors to apply manure on their land. Having a manure hauler, who is committed to low-disturbance applications and utilizing equipment available through Outagamie County Land Conservation Department made this possible.
Mark & Joe’s Advice:
If you’re new to these practices, Mark and Joe suggest to working with your agronomist to identify the resources available to you and to make sure that everyone is on the same page. They recognize that they’re in the early stages of adopting cover crops and no-till practices, but they see a bright future with these practices. For these brothers, coming to a job where each day presents a new set of challenges is what makes farming so exciting. They are continuously looking for ways to improve their operation and they feel strongly that using cover crops and no-till planting will help them build a strong farm for future generations.
- Work with your agronomist and reach out to your local county and NRCS staff.
- Start small and build your way up
- Learn about the resources that are available to you and pick what works best for your farm