Mergen Farm: HASP Return on Investment

Region

Stearns County, Minn.

Timeline

2021 - present

Audience

Dairy and row crop farmers

Conservation Story

Mergen started planting cover crops on some of his acres about five years ago using financial and technical support from the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program. He decided to participate after hearing about how well cover crops have worked for other farmers. Mergen started small and has been expanding, with cover crops now planted on about two-thirds of his acres.

In spring 2022 he used a strip-till system, allowing him to target the planting zone while not disturbing the rest of the topsoil.

Mergen has found that adopting conservation practices can be profitable and has utilized numerous programs that provide technical and financial support, including a pilot program to measure how much carbon is captured in the soil after implementing soil health practices like cover crops.

Practice Impacts

“Start small and find someone to talk to. If it’s not the NRCS or the Soil and Water Conservation District, there’s someone in your area that’s probably doing it. Start small for a couple years and work into it,” said Mergen.

Conservation practices

Cover crops

Strip-till system

photo of a male farmer standing in a green field with a blue sky in the background

I’m trying to be all about profitability and conservation, and luckily, the two work hand in hand if everything goes together.

soybean plants in a field surrounded by old cover crops

Moving into the Future

Mergen mostly plants a cereal rye cover crop, but he hopes to experiment and try new cover crops in the future. With the new strip-till system, Mergen can till the strips in one pass, reducing how much labor is required to prepare the soil for planting.

Main Takeaways

  • Mergen successfully plants corn and soybean into the cover crop rotation and then terminates the cover crop with a chemical application.
  • Mergen is an early adopter of strip tilling in the region. With heavy rains this spring, the strips in one of Mergen’s fields washed out. But he found success in strip-tilling his other fields and is hopeful the practice will reduce erosion and improve soil health over time.

Farm Description

Ben Mergen is a dairy farmer who milks 50 Holsteins and farms about 500 acres.

Agriculture News

Our role in Minnesota’s Climate Action Framework

The Walz Administration has released their Climate Action Framework, a vision for how Minnesota will address and prepare for climate change. Mike Harley shares examples of Environmental Initiative's commitments to collaborative action.

Member of the Month: Midwest Dairy

June member of the month Midwest Dairy is dedicated to sustainability in the dairy industry.

Markets needed to support on-farm conservation efforts

Attendees ventured to St. Cloud, Minn. for the Headwater’s Agriculture Sustainability Partnership’s (HASP) Profit Through Conservation forum to discuss ways to financially support farmers implementing conservation practices. A key barrier to adopting these practices – which can improve water quality, soil health, and sequester carbon in the ground – is a clear economic incentive for farmers. 

See All News

HASP Return-on-Investment case studies

Kuelche Dairy: HASP Return on Investment

The Kuelches operate a third-generation dairy farm, plan to add cover crops into their rotation, and want to learn more about resources from partners and other farmers in the HASP returrn-on-investment program.

Blue Diamond Dairy: HASP Return on Investment

The Frericks of Blue Diamond Dairy believe everything they do is conservation minded. Explore the ways this first-generation dairy-farming family have implemented sustainable practices that increase productivity and profits.

HASP Return on Investment project

Three of eleven farmers with integrated dairy operations are highlighted in the 2021 report which analyzes the relationship between on-farm conservation and finances.