Featured Farmer - Brian Smith, Montrose
Using technology to preserve land and legacy
A fourth generation South Dakota farmer is using technology and modern farming practices as a way to ensure the legacy of his family’s farm and preserve the land for future generations.
Brian Smith farms with his wife, Stephanie, and parents, Paul and Bonnie, near Montrose, South Dakota, just west of Sioux Falls. They raise corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa, and also raise dairy replacement heifers. The dairy calves and heifers are raised on the Smith farm until they are ready to have their first calf, when they join the milking herd at dairy farms.
Brian and Stephanie have two children. Justin is two years old and Evelyn is three months old.
Brian joined his family’s farm full time nine years ago after graduating with an ag business degree from South Dakota State University, but has been involved working on the farm for as long as he can remember.
“I always knew I’d be coming back to the farm,” he said, “I’m able to do what I love alongside my family.”
Brian and other South Dakota farmers have adopted new technologies and equipment for a number of reasons, including helping them be more productive and efficient, and also to do a better job of conserving the land they farm. For example, precision farming tools like autosteer on tractors, and automatic row shutoffs on planters help reduce fuel consumption and ensure that they aren’t overplanting seed. Brian also uses variable rate planting to make sure the right number of seeds are planted throughout the field. He can increase the number of seeds that are planted in the most productive areas of a field, and decrease the number of seeds where soils aren’t as good.
In 2013, Brian is planting “no-till” corn on most of his acres. No till means that farmers plant the new crop directly into the residue left from the previous year’s harvest without tilling the soil at all. Eliminating tillage allows more water and nutrients to stay in the soil and erosion is decreased.
“We decided to no till this season to conserve water after last year’s drought. It also helps reduce possible erosion or run off” said Brian. “There are challenges to going no-till and some special equipment requirements, but the benefits make it a good fit for our farm.”
You can view these practices and see the precision farming equipment that today’s farmers use in this video of Brian and his son Justin during the 2013 planting season. Click here to view video.
Brian is active in local community groups as well as on a statewide level in ag organizations. He serves as a fireman and first responder with his local fire department and is active in the United Methodist Church. He is also on the board of directors for the Humboldt Farmers Elevator, currently serving as secretary.
He joined the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council (SDCUC) board of directors in 2008, and was elected president in 2013. SDCUC is focused on developing and maintaining new and existing markets, promoting new uses and increasing profitability for South Dakota corn producers, including working to expand livestock production and establishing new market uses for corn and co-products. He is also a member of the Ag United board of directors and is a member of the National Dairy Calf and Heifer Association.
Brian points out the role that agriculture plays in South Dakota’s economy – at both the state and local levels.
“Every South Dakota farm is also a business that benefits the local economy as farmers employ people and buy services, supplies and feed locally,” he said. “It is also the largest industry in the state. I think people forget or don’t realize how many dollars agriculture pumps back into the state’s economy.”