Jon Holzfaster (Paxton, NE)
One of the first clues that precision agriculture was benefiting Jon Holzfaster’s farm in Paxton, Nebraska came from one of his suppliers.
“My fuel supplier called wanting to know what he could do to get our business back,” Holzfaster says. “The fact was, we hadn’t switched suppliers. We were simply saving so much fuel that it was having a visible impact on his revenue.”
To best manage the type of soil on his farm, Holzfaster uses “strip-till” practices, which involve preparing a narrow seedbed and applying seed and fertilizer precisely using satellite-based technology accurate to less than an inch.
“We’re preparing the ideal environment for the seed as we till, fertilize and plant in one pass—and that saves time and fuel,” he said.
Holzfaster’s farm employs four full-time and has integrated precision technology throughout.
“It clearly makes us more efficient, more environmentally sound and improves safety and profitability. We would never go back,” he said.
A third-generation farmer, Holzfaster, 45, contributes 2,500 acres to his family’s diversified farming operation. Corn is the primary crop with soybeans, alfalfa, edible beans and wheat.
He has also grown popcorn and other specialty corn hybrids for industrial and feed uses. Holzfaster has a non-commercial cattle-feeding operation, too, which feeds the cows distillers grains from a nearby ethanol biorefinery in which he also has a financial interest.
As outdoor enthusiasts, the Holzfasters are also committed to conservation and wildlife habitat.
“We have not hesitated to convert any acres that would better serve as habitat,” Holzfaster said. “As a result, most of our pivot corners (irrigation) and other fragile acres are stable and solid, with little or no erosion. We’ve also planted tens of thousands of trees over the years. Game bird populations are stronger than ever.”
Holzfaster holds a degree in ag economics from the University of Nebraska. He says that farmers have changed with the times through a combination of necessity and technological advancement.
“We’re more efficient than ever. We’re using less fuel and traveling across the land fewer times. We have better genetics to help us optimize yields from existing acres—and our use of chemicals has decreased dramatically,” he said. “In this respect, the good old days are actually happening right now.”
For all this new technology, the traditional values of farming remain.
“We continue to protect the land and water that we rely on for our very livelihood—and we remain committed to providing our nation the security and benefits that comes with a safe, abundant food supply,” Holzfaster said. “Now farmers are being asked to help America with its energy security as well—and I’m confident we can meet that challenge, without compromising our ability to feed the world.”