Roger Edwards is the pivot man of three generations of farmland stewards before him and two generations following him.
For the Louisa County Farm Bureau member, quality is everything. “Quality matters to me, whether it is soil health, water quality, cattle or kids. You have to make money farming, but you need to leave the farm better than you found it,” he said. “I want to see us make a difference now with our farming practices for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."
Edwards notes that going back to his great-grandfather Lewis, who migrated to the U.S. from Wales, the family has always prioritized land stewardship. “They were raising cover crops like rye before it was even called a cover crop,” says Edwards.
Today, Edwards raises corn, beans, hay, straw and cover crops. He also feeds pigs and has a purebred Angus cow/calf operation.
Edwards has continually made conservation improvements. When some of his land came out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the farmer worked with District Conservationist Drew DeLang to help rebuild the field.
Edwards was able to access EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) funds to construct three ponds to stop gully erosion. He also established paddocks for rotational grazing and developed a grass rotational grazing plan.
DeLang said conservation measures have sharply reduced soil erosion on the land. “Roger and his wife, Susie, are very good stewards of the land, always looking for ways to prevent soil erosion and improve soil health and any new things that are available to help them do that,” he said.
Working through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Edwards is adding other conservation measures, including splitting up nitrogen applications, rotational grazing, conducting intense manure sampling and soil tests.
He has also changed his alfalfa rotation to four or five years to improve soil health.
“One of our main problems is that we have gotten away from oats, hay and pasture. These are the best crops we have to control soil health,” he noted.
Edwards prides himself on being an innovator and thinking outside the box. Over the years, he has done several things that some may think are unconventional. “I like to spin everything around the opposite of the way people think and then see what you can do. It’s amazing what you can learn and find out by doing that,” says Edwards.
Edwards received the Environmental Leader Award from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in 2017.
Meyer is a freelance writer in Garrison.