Member Spotlight: How Fresh Ideas Fuel First Generation Farmer James Hepp
7 Nov 2333 min 51 sec

The Member Spotlight is on Iowa’s James Hepp. James — to put it lightly — isn't afraid to try new new things. He got into farming by crafting an arrangement with a retiring operator whose children wanted to retain the farm asset.  James does cover crops, variable rate seeding, and a combo of no-till / strip-till. He does this all this with very modest machinery as he focuses on keeping the business side of his operation solvent. Aside from agronomics, James shares with Damian some financial and business tips that could help an aspiring young farmer get established.  

Presented by Advanced Drainage Systems

00:00 Hey, we're doing another Extreme Ag Member Spotlight with James Hep, who's doing some pretty cool stuff in Iowa in this edition of Extreme as Cutting 00:07 the Curve. Welcome to Extreme ags Cutting the Curve podcast, where you get a guaranteed return on investment of your time as we cut your 00:18 learning curve with the information you can apply to your farming operation immediately. Extreme ag, 00:25 we've already made the mistakes so you don't have to. Managing your farm's water resources is a critical component to a successful and sustainable farming operation. 00:36 Advanced drainage systems helps farmers just like you increase their yields up to 30% with their technologically advanced water management products. 00:46 Visit ad ss to see how they can keep your business flowing. Now, here's your host, Damien Mason. Well, 00:54 Greetings and welcome to another fantastic episode of Extreme Ag Cutting the curve. If you hear some background noise above my office, 01:02 new flooring is going in, so I apologize. But you know, as they say in showbiz, the show must go on. Talk about James Hep. Uh, 01:11 we've had him on once before. James has a pretty cool situation. He's gonna tell us all about it, and he works, um, 01:18 with Mike Evans of Integrated Ag Solutions and also the agronomist for Kelly Garrett. Um, and he's really upped his game. So, real quickly, 01:27 a little bit about your background. You're not really from a farm. You didn't, you can't pull that thing of I inherited grandpa's, uh, you know, uh, one 60. 01:36 You've got a unique situation. Tell us about that and then we're, talk about some of the cool things you're doing to up your farming game. 01:42 Yeah, so I'm a first generation farmer with my wife Paige, uh, Rockville City, Iowa, north Central Iowa. Um, one of my, I was always, 01:50 I was a crop insurance adjuster and I always had some free time, so I liked helping local farmers. Um, that worked out pretty well. 01:58 One of my high school friends, his family had a fair amount of land and him and his brother didn't really wanna farm and his dad was looking to slow down and possibly retire. 02:07 So he asked if I would come and, uh, run grain cart, just help him one fall. And I did. And, uh, went really well. 02:15 And then the following year he asked if I wanted to crop share 160 acres and, uh, see how that went. And that also seemed to go really well. 02:23 So then he stepped it up and, uh, the third year I helped him, I ended up crop sharing about 600 acres, 02:29 and then he kind of liked slowing down and he, we pretty much doubled it. So now I'm around 1400 acres. Um, basically took over the operation, 02:39 um, day to day, bought the building site, um, have an agreement to buy the equipment on contract. Um, it's a, it's a pretty, pretty good deal, really. I mean, it's a, especially being first generation, 02:51 It's a pretty good deal. It's a very difficult business to enter because of the capital requirements. Uh, I recorded a business of agriculture show, which is my own podcast about this. 03:00 You know, they like to say, oh, young person getting in this business. Well, that's not true. You are a young person and you did enter the business. 03:06 And the other thing, and a lot of ag people don't like it when you tell 'em some truths. I say, well, it's difficult to get into manufacturing, um, 03:16 asphalt shingles also. Well, what are you comparing that to? Well, it's a low margin commodity production business. 03:22 So find me the 25 year old that's gonna hop into asphalt shingle manufacturing. When you look at agriculture in that regard, 03:30 low margin takes a lot of capital and you're producing a commodity. It's a little different thing, but it can be done. 03:36 And also there are U S D A programs that help you along. Did you get a U S D A program to help you get your, your foot in the door? 03:43 Yeah, so the big kicker was my, the landowner that I work with, we were able to do, Iowa has really great tax, 03:49 like a tax grant thing or a tax credit. Um, so we were able to fill out that it was a mountain of paperwork, um, but it, it was pretty lucrative for those guys. Um, so it helps them offset. So I, 04:01 they were able to kind of gimme a little bit of a discount on some of the equipment, but then he gets it back in the TA form of a tax credit. I see. Um, 04:08 Yeah, so in other, in other words, he, he's, he's able to offset some capital gain or appreciation or something like this and helps you also. 04:17 Yeah. And he is able to spread out his equipment sales over like five to six years to help with that with cash flow instead of just dumping it all at once. And, 04:26 and there was a discount 'cause he figured if he took it to auction, you know, he'd pay commission. It'd take a lot of money to haul stuff there. 04:32 So he kind of took some of that off the top and then being able to divide it out over the years, that helped him too. So, um, there's ways to do it. 04:40 Some states are better than others. Like I have friends in Missouri and Missouri doesn't really have a tax credit program like that, but I think a lot of other states are starting to though, 04:48 so it's worth looking into. That's, that's really good advice. And that's a business advice. Well, by the way, dear listener or viewer James, uh, because he was in, in business, 04:58 he sent me an email about a year ago saying, Hey, if you can delve into some business topics here at cutting the curve. 'cause he always likes the business side of agriculture. 05:07 And as we commonly point out, that's the part that most farmers don't like. 'cause it's not getting your hands dirty, it's not looking at corn grow, 05:16 but it's the part that most farms fail because of it's, you, you don't usually fail because of a lack of yield. 05:22 You fail because of a lack of adherence to the business side of stuff. So you're in a, you're in an awesome situation. 05:29 Some might also see it as a precarious situation. You own about 15 acres, uh, you farm 1400 at someone else's. Um, 05:41 there's the risk that, uh, the old man, uh, starts to get a little, um, uh, senile and decides, um, he doesn't like you. He, he, he'd rather have, uh, you know, whatever, 05:55 someone from the church or whatever the thing is, you know, uh, somebody else farm it. So you're, you're a little bit, 06:01 you're a little bit over the barrel on that. Is it about you or do you think, no, I'll be okay. 06:07 Uh, originally it kind of did. So like before, backing up a little bit before I started farming with him, I was an adjuster and I had a good friend that was kind of wanting to slow down 06:16 and he was an agent insurance agent, but I didn't want to jump head first into that because it's a hundred percent commission base and it takes a lot of years to build a good land base with 06:25 insurance. So this all happened about within six months of each other, um, this farming opportunity happened. And then with the farming, 06:32 I couldn't be as flexible with adjusting, because some falls, they would send me two states away in October, and that doesn't work. So, um, 06:40 and my wife was very supportive, so I just said, you know, if we don't try this, we're gonna regret it forever. Um, and we'll, we'll figure it out. I mean, the, 06:47 the rewards are way higher than the risk, I think. Um, and so, but yeah, it is, it's a little scary. But like I said, 06:54 I think I have a lot of room for growth, um, with aging farmers in the area. I think I'll be able to maybe help them maybe do a similar situation with crop 07:03 shares or something like that. Yeah. Well, if there's, in your situation, the family didn't want to sell the asset, 07:10 there was a lot of acres worth a hell of a lot of money. Mm-hmm. Um, and, uh, they needed an operator. And if you can be that operator now, you know, 07:19 there's always the risk that, uh, the, the operation down the road that's, uh, 10,000 acres, uh, comes in and outbids you. Uh, but those, you know, 07:29 those are, that could happen, you know, whether you're in your situation or not. Uh, what did you do? 07:38 'cause we like the fact that you're progressive. Uh, you're not just out here, uh, you know, ploting along. 07:42 And that's probably one of the benefits of being first gen. You've gotta think a little more creatively. 07:46 Most people haven't had to jump through some hoops and get more creative like you have. So you, you are fairly creative. 07:53 What did you experiment with in 2023 on your farming operation? Well, I was lucky to work with Evans and we kind of threw the kitchen sink at 08:01 everything. Um, I kind of figured if I'm doing the same thing I was two years ago and another two years, I don't know if I'll be able to make it. So we really, uh, 08:09 we probably did more than I would recommend a lot of guys doing, but it's worked out. Um, some of the highlights, the main things we did was, um, 08:18 like, I don't know, we talked earlier about, um, or while back about how I rebuilt my planner. That was another way to save, save money. You know, I spent like 25 grand on it instead of 120,000. And, uh, 08:30 so when I did that, I was able to variable rate stuff. So Evans was able to help me and we variable rated all my corn and soybean seeds this year for planting. And, uh, so that saved me, oh, let's see. 08:41 For soybeans it probably saved me 15 to $20 an acre. And corn is probably 10 to $12 an acre right off the get go. Um, So when you think about this, um, all right, there's a couple of, you know, 08:52 this is, this is merging between the creativity and experimentation and also into strategies for success. And you're not bashing on anybody, 09:01 but there are certainly, I know people, uh, you know, in this county or next county over that, you know, your fifth generation, your, your money's really good. 09:11 We're obviously in our fifth year of farm incomes being really good, fourth or fifth year of farm incomes being really solid. Um, 09:20 and uh, ah, hell, let's go and buy a new, uh, let's go and buy a new $150,000 planner. We've done an episode about this before, James, you don't need the newest. Uh, 09:33 I think at Kelly Garrett's, I think they have a 12 year old planter that they use that they just keep, uh, re retooling it and, and uh, putting the new technology on. So you did that. 09:43 So that's, first off, that's a strategy for success. You spent 25 grand instead of 150, let's say, but it allowed you to change into variable seeding. 09:53 And there's some folks that this is brand new idea and the idea is you're putting more seed where it needs to be and less seed where it's, uh, 10:02 the low spot that, uh, you know, gets water pressure any out, right? Yeah. Yep. Yeah. So like for my corn, most guys around here, if I had to guess, 10:11 they probably plant like a flat 34,000, 35,000, somewhere around there. Um, my corn, I ended up only 31,000 average. Uh, 10:20 my low spots were probably 27. My high spots were probably 34. Uh, and two days ago I was able, 10:25 I combined about 40 acres the other day and I was able to go through the low spots and they were real, they were better than they've ever been. Um, 10:33 just because they weren't so crowded out. Um, like it was, I was shocked. They were really good. So, um, and soybeans, I've been dropping population. 10:42 Most guys probably plant about a bag an acre. So 140,000 and all the years I've farmed, the last couple I've done 125 and I've had great yields. 10:51 And this year I think we averaged a little over a hundred thousand. So we're anywhere from 80,000 to 140. 10:57 And you can't tell a difference from the road and the low pop, they, uh, they have a lot more pods on 'em, 11:02 which obviously they need to in order to make up, but you know, there's $25 savings. But then it gives, the root growth is really alarming. 11:10 I mean, even the guy I farm with, he noticed some of my beans look different and he went and dug out and some of 'em and he's like, well, those are the biggest roots I've seen in a long time. 11:18 So Is it because you hang out with Evans and Kelly or is it an Iowa thing that you call roots? Roots? I've always wondered about that. Uh, 11:27 I dunno. Anyway, we call it roots. Alright, so that's pretty cool right there. You're saving, you said 15 to 20 bucks on soybeans, 11:36 10 to $12 on your corn acres just by reduction of seed. And you didn't reduce the across, you did variable rate. So that will pay for the planter improvements this year. 11:49 Well, and I'll get, I feel like I'll get increased yields too 'cause the poor areas will become okay or good areas and, uh, the better areas will get better. 11:57 But then the efficiency too, like for soybeans, I'm using, uh, 75% of the seeds so I can go 25% longer. 12:05 And everybody knows that's your biggest slowdown in planting is stopping and refilling, especially with high population. So, 12:11 Well, especially also, you're, again, you don't, you, you got a kid, but your kid's like an infant. So you don't have somebody out there tending, uh, 12:18 tending, uh, you know, your planter, it's you. Right? Yep. By the way, do you still do the insurance adjuster on the side then? 12:25 No, I switched. I'm an agent now. I'm a licensed agent. Okay. Yep. Um, 12:32 practices that you've changed besides the planter and variable rate, any other practices you've changed since you joined Extreme Ag and now have 12:40 Evans'? You know, we're gonna have Evans a big head because I say good things about him all the time. And you say good things about, 12:46 I worry about that. Yeah. Uh, yeah. Uh, and one new avenue I went down with him is using humic humic acid as a nitrogen stabilizer, which that has worked amazing. Um, it's really reasonable. I mean, 13:00 it's probably a couple bucks an acre, but it's a lot healthier for the soil than nitrogen stabilizers. Um, so I use that because I use a lot of 32% for my nitrogen source. Um, 13:10 so I used that and then I also used his fulvic acids that he recommended every pass. And this is the best weed kill I've had. 13:18 Most guys aren't saying that, but, um, and it's a low rate. It was like half ounce per acre, which you would think, what, 13:23 what in the world's that gonna do, putting Fulvic in, putting fulvic in a herbicide pass, uh, gives, gives better kill? Is that what you're saying? 13:30 Yeah. 'cause the fo and with my foliar, supposedly the fulvic helps get the nutrients and anything you got into the plant better. Yeah. Absorbs better. So, and I, I run like E three soybeans, 13:41 so I just feel like I had, I had, everybody has weeds that get a little taller than you want and if you don't, you're just not being honest. But, um, 13:49 I felt like I was able to get a way better kill and my foliar, I think I got a lot more bang for my buck, my foliar by using the, 13:56 the fulvic acid. So that was a whole new window, James, if you're gonna be a smaller scale, um, and you know, 1400 acres isn't certainly like, uh, 20 acres, but by, 14:07 in this day and age, that's, that's mid-sized, right? Um, yeah. Do you ever think I need to experiment with, uh, specialty crops? 14:17 By the way, are you hearing them pounding up there? No, I don't hear it. You're really not hearing them. How? No, that's fantastic. It feels, 14:24 it feels like right now my, my, my ceiling's gonna come caving in and you're not even hearing. No, you're good. Alright. Nope, go ahead. Oh, by the way, before you do, I wanna ask, 14:33 I I'm gonna take a little spot here for a second, uh, and remind our listeners about our friends at Loveland. Um, weather induced crop stress, it happens, it could be cold, 14:43 it could be a cold spring, it could be a wet spring, it could be terribly, terribly hot and dry in the summer. It could be a lot of things. There's, 14:52 there are tools at your disposal to help mitigate crop stress, such as Terramar. 14:58 Terramar is an innovative bio stimulant technology from Loveland products designed to help your corn and soybean crops thrive even under stressful 15:05 conditions. Try Terramar Terramar, T E R R a m a r, Terramar, exclusively available from Nutrient Ag Solutions. Okay, so you don't like think, 15:17 okay, you know what I really need to do? I need to grow organic canola on 80 of these acres to, to step outside of the zone? 15:26 No. Um, I have been dabbling in small grains. Um, we've, the guy I farm with, 15:31 we've raised about 80 acres of rye now twice and had a pretty decent, um, experience with it. Um, 15:39 we're kind of looking more for the market 'cause I've been using cover, so most of my acres get cover cropped. Um, 15:44 all my corn stalks that are going to soybeans the following year, they'll get rye put down. So, um, you know, 15:50 you can buy rye for 12 to $14 an acre or you can raise it for probably, I don't know, seven, six bucks an acre and like a 10 acre patch. You know, 16:00 I need like a 10 acre patch with supply me with all my rye. So I'm kind of looking into finding like some of those corner pieces are places 16:07 that are hard to get in and out of, maybe put that to rye and then I have my own source crop to worry about crop. Yeah. Yep. Um, by 16:15 The way, you know, Kelly, Kelly does that, I think he even did oats. Uh, but um, and then if you do, you do cover crops now? 16:23 Yeah. Yep. On, on how many acres? Uh, about half. So about six, 700 acres? Yep. Okay. Uh, why don't you do it on all, 16:31 Well, like we talked before on the last podcast deal, I just wanted to crawl before I run. Yep. I've had really good experience with my soybeans and I, this year I, 16:39 I dabbled in cover crop in corn and it actually turned out pretty good, but I'd like to do it again before I really go hard into it. Sure. 16:48 I agree with your things. So growing your own, uh, yeah, you'll find somewhere there that eight acre chunk of ground that nobody wants to 16:55 fool with that you can use or pick up, you know, fairly expensively to grow rye in it. Mm-hmm. And use that for your cover cropping the application of your, 17:04 how do you put on your cover cropping? Uh, right now I have a, a friend that's about 10 miles away with a, with, he's got a vertical till machine and an air machine and, uh, 17:13 he's able to cover the ground pretty fast. Uh, my goal is to get one for myself though, for next year and start doing some custom cover crop seeding. 17:22 You know, you listen to you very long, uh, James, and you realize the power of relationships. You're a farmer now because you're a high school friend and you are, uh, 17:30 good to the family. You're, uh, crop insurance. You've had, uh, exploited relationships, not, I shouldn't say exploit, capitalize, 17:37 capitalize on them, exploit, sound like you went out there and like, you know, shot 'em and stole their business. Yeah. You, you, you capitalize on, um, 17:45 looking ahead 2024, what are you, are you gonna change, whatcha gonna alter? Let's talk about seed. You already talked about you're doing variable seeding, uh, variable fertility. 17:55 Is that something that you're gonna do or you already do? Um, yeah. Well, I can't really do right now I strip till, um, 18:01 so all my corn ground gets stripped tilled, but I'm not, I'm not capable of doing variable rate on that yet. Um, but with, 18:06 with Evans and Extreme Mag, the big thing I've learned is just the systems approach. You know, there's not just one thing that you can do and make a hundred bucks. 18:15 There's 10 things you gotta do to make 10 bucks. So, um, so I've been working with Evans, you know, from start to finish. 18:21 So he's been doing some SAP testing and some Haney testing, which has been really interesting. So next year, 18:27 my biggest thing I'm gonna step up is I bought a set of Y drops this year and I ended up using them a little bit. And, uh, I, 18:34 I originally was gonna do 200 acres, then a friend needed some done, and it turned into about 900 acres. And then I did a couple hundred of my own. 18:41 So I, uh, I definitely got my experience in this year and it went really well. So next year I'm gonna be variable rating, uh, my y drops and nitrogen. 18:50 I've been lowering my nitrogen rates too, and that's why I got the Y drops. Um, awesome. So that's, by the way, I think, and, 18:56 and there's a big topic we're gonna be covering a lot with extreme ag. It's about nitrogen reduction. There's environmental pressure on this. 19:03 There's gonna be, I'm convinced there's gonna be political pressure on this. There's gonna be U S D A programs or pressure on this. So whatever you can do, 19:11 you're already cutting back on nitrogen right now? Yeah, like in the past I've always run about 160 pounds in total. Um, this year Evans introduced me to that, um, source from Sound Ag. Yeah. 19:23 So I actually, uh, well, I was, I didn't plan on cutting it back as much as I did, but the way the numbers worked, 19:29 I ended up putting about 130 pounds of end down on every acre. And those 40 acres I just combined that were running right at two 15. Um, 19:38 so I, I didn't, nitrogen wasn't my limiting factor, which is true for most people. Um, so that was kind of shocking to be able to cut my nitrogen back that far. 19:47 So now I plan on doing that again next year, but then do more split application with my pre and a y drop. And maybe like what that Johnny did with like, banding it over the top. Yeah. 19:57 I'm kind of looking into maybe getting that too and doing like a three shot pass with nitrogen. 20:01 This is why we like having you on here because you actually retain in your No. And all the stuff that the extreme ag guys are sharing with you. And by the way, 20:09 you keep singing Evans' praises. Do you pay him? Well, he, but he takes a lot of money from me every year. Him and him and gro man, 20:19 I was doing my taxes the other day and I hope I get a Christmas card from 'em. Well, you know what they, okay, you're talking about integrated ag solutions. 20:26 So the point is, uh, they don't just, it's not like just backup and load up the truck and then, uh, they send you an invoice. Yeah. You, you get the professional advice from them. 20:36 Um, timing, is there anything you got wrong on timing in 2023 that you're gonna alter? Did you get into soon? Did you get into late? Did you miss an application? Uh, 20:46 did you overly did you do anything wrong in terms of timing and practice? Um, well for, I guess at the beginning of the year we waited. I think I, 20:56 I didn't plant till about my corn. Normally I do beans first. I've had really good luck planting soybeans first, but it was just so cold, wet, 21:03 cold, wet, warm up. So I didn't do anything till about May 5th. I planted my corn about May 5th to May 9th, 21:10 and then I turned around for about another week and did my beans. So, um, I'm really glad I did my corn late. 'cause my plant health this year, um, 21:18 we have less water than we had last year, and my yields are already about 15 to 20 bushel better than what they were last year. And I mean, I'm still, I'm still, 21:26 I still have like 19% corn that I was combine the other day. A lot of green leaves on it. Um, 21:32 but when I planted my soybeans and my cover crop, it was getting pretty dry. And, uh, I got lucky. I terminated it. I probably should've, you know, 21:39 if I had a crystal ball, I would've terminated it probably a week or two sooner. Um, but I got in one inch rain about four or five days after planting, 21:46 and that kind of saved my bacon. So, um, for next year, I know I need to be, I've just never had this dry of spring before. 21:53 Granted I haven't had that many springs, but, um, that's something in the back of my mind to just manage moisture. Um, and so I lucked out there, so, but I don't regret planning late, but I mean, 22:04 there was some days I did, but now looking back, I'm glad I didn't. You Just said you haven't had that many springs how many years, uh, on your own? 22:11 This is like your fifth? Uh, Yeah, about my fifth year. Okay. Um, okay, so we're talking about different practices, timing, marketing. Do you get your marketing done, right? I mean, 22:22 do you think because that's another area. 'cause it's in the business realm. And I gotta tell you, if I'm not making any judgment, 22:29 I have a degree in agricultural economics. I still don't know. I had a dream last night that someone was confusing me about puts and calls and 22:36 all these things. Uh, it, I would've to hire a consul consultant if I was a farmer on marketing the product. What do you do? 22:45 Yeah, I, I'm pretty, uh, pretty green when it comes to calls and puts, and once again, I like to crawl before I run. So I've been getting, uh, 22:54 somewhat semi lucky with just doing really good cash sales or h t a sales. Um, I, I ended up selling probably 30 40% of my crop to our local ethanol plant, 23:04 and that's around that five 80 to $6 range for corn while I was sitting in line with my, 23:11 about $8,000 semi surrounded with a hundred thousand dollars Peterbilt. So I was looking at the price, so I, I sold some, 23:17 I sold some grain and I'm really happy I did. Um, same with soybeans too. I started growing some seed beans, which helped add value. Um, 23:25 so I got pretty aggressive this year, but it might be more luck. So that's definitely high on my list next year, 23:30 for next year is to try and find someone good that I can work with and maybe experiment with some of the calls and puts. But I, I do a bad job at that. 23:38 I just, but I gotta know my numbers. So if I'm in the green, I start making sales, I start even a truckload at a time. It's, 23:45 it's better than just waiting and dumping 20,000 bushels and Ing. Hey, you just made it crack James, about your, uh, your, your, 23:52 shall we say budget conscious, uh, semi versus people with 300,000 is a 20, 24 is on your list to upgrade and buy a hundred thousand semi. I I I hope not. 24:06 Nope. Nope. Uh, speaking of money, what one thing made you money that you'll swear by in the last couple of years? One thing you're like, you know, maybe it's a couple of things that you're like, 24:18 Hey, here's something, if you're not doing this, you should. Um, I think long-term for like my five years for sure, I think strip till, uh, 24:28 reduced reducing tillage and strip till, um, everybody's afraid of no-till beans. Uh, yeah. You know, like Kelly's had on there, you know, the American farmer grows a sexy crop, 24:37 but it doesn't necessarily make you money. Um, no-till beans are ugly, but when the combine rolls through, they're the same or better, 24:44 but you save a pile of money, um, like not to knock people in my area, but everybody around here has huge quad tracks and rippers and field 24:52 cultivators. Um, so I think reducing tillage, I mean, I, I don't, my biggest tractor is 260 horse, so I save a ton of money. 25:00 I probably use half the fuel they do. So, um, reducing tillage has made me money and made my soil better. Um, just being open-minded too to try stuff like with cover crops. 25:10 I know my cover crops have helped By the way, there's another thing if great grandpa, uh, loves running plows and grandpa ran, uh, 25:19 plows and discs and field cultivators and then daddy ran, uh, you know, doos and field peppers and whatever the hell they call you would say, yep, 25:29 you can't farm without tilling and you're, you're dead on. Right. You use half the diesel fuel. What's a gallon diesel now? Four bucks, 25:36 let's call it. Right? It's three 80, whatever the hell it's, yeah. Okay. Uh, so there's four bucks a gallon and, uh, you're, you're beating up your soil. 25:45 Um, you know, you talked about Evans. Evans took a picture, uh, this early spring, 25:50 late winter of an entire field that essentially washed into the ditch. And I said, what's interesting is that farmer who tills unnecessarily 26:02 blames the weather, they don't look at their practices. They think that the reason the field washed away is because we had a wet, a wet spell on frozen ground. Like no, it, it, uh, it it's because of you. 26:13 Mm-hmm. Yeah. So a combination of that stuff. And then like last year was a really big year for going into like reducing nitrogen, um, like the humic and phobics. I mean, 26:24 there's probably only three to $4 an acre in that stuff and it's got really good return. I mean, just plant health and all that. 26:30 And so there's a lot of things and also just trying to figure out to do stuff your own, I mean, I know new equipment you really can't work on, 26:39 but like my planner, I was terrified to take all 16 rows off and I had a good friend that's mechanically inclined. He helped me quite a bit, but it really wasn't that bad. 26:48 But man, it saved me a lot of money. I mean, I probably spent a month working on it a couple days a week here and there, but, um, boy, I, well, you got, 26:56 You've got time. Yep. You try to, and it's always last minute it seems like, but you try and start early and you have a heated shop also 27:05 My indoor You have a heated shop, James? No. Nope. So I was out there with gloves this winter in January, February, taking row units off and unplugging stuff. And you 27:15 Have a shop period? Yeah, I have a shop I can get out of the wind, which helps. But yeah, and every once in a while I have a friend that's got a shop I can get into and 27:24 use a little bit. But, uh, that, that's on the do to-do list also to get it heated, something so I can work on in the winter, but 27:31 A heated shop. So that's, uh, you talked about some strategies and being nimble I think is what we're talking about here. Uh, 27:38 you're not over equipped and so you're not breaking the bank on that. Uh, you don't have the fancy stuff and then you don't do tillage, 27:44 so you don't have to have tillage equipment and you don't have to have great big tractors. I think those are all keys to thriving the neighbors. Uh, 27:52 they think you're doing it wrong, You know, I, I don't wanna say yes, but I don't wanna say no. What about the guy, what about the family and the guy that you, that, uh, 28:03 that helped you get into this situation? Uh oh, did they, do they question your practices or do they applaud your practices? 28:10 No, I, I'm very lucky in that aspect. Uh, the guy I farm with, he's always, uh, liked to try different things and stuff like that, so we're pretty like-minded. 28:19 Um, and he's actually been pretty excited about some extreme ag stuff and kind of taken note of what I've done. 28:25 And he's cornered Evans before when he is dropping off products, kind of what to do. So I, I'm very lucky. I have virtually zero, uh, 28:33 drag when it comes to that kind of stuff. Um, they know what I'm trying to do, what's best for me is what's best for them, vice versa. So that's 28:42 Fantastic. I'm pretty lucky. Yeah, I'm very lucky. I feel for, I have friends that have issues where they have two, 28:47 three generations ahead of 'em and they won't let 'em do anything. So I, I really feel for guys that way. I like that's, that's awful. 28:53 I don't know how to fix that, but, Well, it's an encumbrance, uh, because, you know, they feel like, well, since I don't control again, we talk about the capital, 29:03 I don't control the capital. Um, so I can't go against the grain here because then all of a sudden the capital dries up or I'm, I'm, you know, I don't get the farming, 29:12 so that's very fortunate. Alright, get me out here James Hep. Um, what excites you about 2024? What excites you about the future? What, uh, 29:21 what thing do you wanna share, uh, on until we meet again? Uh, well I, I'm pretty excited and optimistic about everything. 29:28 We have a lot of trials we did this year. Um, I'm excited to see what the combine says and then, uh, meet with Evans and some of the extreme ag guys this winter in the off season 29:38 and share swap war stories, so to speak, and see what worked, what didn't work and build on it. Um, 29:44 the amount of ground I've gained this year, I've, even myself, I was pretty surprised and shocked with. Um, I, 29:50 I definitely know I'm in the right direction, so, and, and this group's really helped me. So, um, there's just a lot, a lot of products I use that I've seen a lot of value to and I've had seen 30:00 videos from you guys saying the same thing, so I know it's not just a coincidence. So that's nice. There you go. By the way, the soil that you're, uh, 30:07 that you're continue to operate on, can you see in the five years, can you see improvements? I mean, 30:12 yields are improving 'cause your practice are getting better and some of the stuff you're doing do, does the, do you see it in the dirt too? 30:19 Oh, I've seen improvements already. Um, the spring we had some of those rains when the ground was kind of half froze and not, and I have one field that's lower than the other three around it and we had 30:29 probably an inch of rain and uh, the, all my neighbors, they had standing water and puddles on 'em and my field that had the rye, there was no puddles. So that kind of sold, I mean, 30:38 I knew I was in the right direction, but sometimes you gotta see it. So my water infiltration has increased a big time and that was the first time 30:45 that field had been cover crop. So I mean it's not like you gotta do it for 10 years to see results. Yeah, And that's the thing everybody would say, well, you know, 30:51 that's gonna take a hundred years, I'll be dead by then you, you improved water infiltration and porosity, 30:57 um mm-hmm in just by not packing it down and doing cover crops. Yeah, well and just goes back to the r o I too, like with my cover crops, 31:07 say I spend 20 bucks on it, I skip my pre my pre-pass and any residual. So the way I look at it, I break even, I spend the same, 31:15 I what I spend in cover crop, I would've spent chemicals, but the cover crop works better. 31:20 And then some of these cost share programs really help too. So, um, and then you got countless things you can't see under the soil earthworms and 31:27 water infiltration. You can't put a dollar amount on that stuff. We're Gonna do an episode someday just on cover crops, all about cover crops, 31:35 how to do it, how to get started, et cetera. We'll bring you on as one of the guests. But the, while we are on that topic, real briefly, you just said cost share. 31:41 So the person listening to this probably says, wait a minute, what's he talking about? 31:44 So my area, if you're familiar with Iowa, they have the, the nitrogen in the water lawsuit down in Des Moines. Um, 31:51 and my county was part of it, so, and I'm in the Raccoon River Valley shed. So like my county, they really stepped up. Um, you can get $25 an acre, uh, 32:00 through the county for cover crops and then if you join like the P F I or some practical farmers, Iowa, you can get another like 10 or 12 bucks I think it is. 32:08 So potentially you can get 35 bucks and I think with that guy doing my custom and the seeding, I'm gonna be about 25, 26 bucks an acre. 32:18 So you could, you could very well put a cover crop in for basically free almost. Yeah. And then reap all the benefits from it. So why not? There's a lot, 32:28 lot of neat things out there. Every state's different, but I think every state's stepping up their program though. Yeah. On that stuff. Alright. Alright. 32:34 So you'll come back sometime and we'll do an episode only on cover crops. We'll bring on on a few different people, methods, practices, how to do it, 32:41 how to do it right, et cetera. But in the meantime, I wanted to do a member spotlight on you, which isn't the first time 'cause you've been on before, 32:47 but I like it 'cause you always have new ideas and all that. So I think the, uh, the idea that you're, that you are, uh, always trying new things is, uh, 32:57 and we're gonna have to share this with Evans because you just basically like sung his praises. 33:02 Can we edit it or something and put somebody else in computer? His name's James Hep. What's the town in Iowa again? 33:09 Uh, Rockwell City, First Generation Farmer, extreme Ag member on the member spotlight. Thanks for being here buddy. 33:15 Yep. Thanks Damien. Till next time. I'm Dan Mason and this is the extreme Ag cutting the curve. That's a wrap for this episode of Cutting the Curve, but there's plenty more. 33:25 Check out Extreme Ag Farm where you can find past episodes, instructional videos and articles to help you squeeze more profit outta 33:34 your farm. Cutting the curve is brought to you by Advanced Drainage Systems, the leader in agriculture water management solutions.