The farmer.  Adam Henkel farms corn, soybeans, seed corn and seed beans in north central Illinois near Sublette with his father and uncles. He’s been farming almost 20 years, currently part-time, while he works as a Certified Services Agent in the data and technology division for Pioneer®. When his father retires, he will begin farming full time.


Environmental challenge.  The Henkel land, heavily rolling soils, drains into watersheds for both the Illinois and Rock Rivers.


Best Management Practices. Henkel is a seventh-generation farmer whose father and grandfather were progressive operators:  they purchased a yield monitor on their combine in 1994 and have had GPS on-farm since 1996. All their planters and sprayers are variable-rate capable.


In addition to being early-adopters in technology, the Henkels regularly embrace new environmental practices. As far back as the 1990s, they practiced no-till and began soil-sampling.


This is the fourth year the Henkels have planted cover crops, primarily cereal rye and radishes. In the spring, they devoted eight plots to different cover crop blends planted at V5 in corn; this blend was to be duplicated in late August in a joint effort with the Lee County Soil and Water Conservation District for a late-fall farm tour.


The Henkels’ waterways system includes block chutes and terraces. “We cover all the bases,” Adam Henkel says.


The family participates in the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. While there are financial rewards, the most important consideration is soil health. “My grandfather said you only get to use it while you’re here, you don’t actually own it.”


Sustainable start.  Henkel says his family adopts sustainable practices to prepare for an eighth generation family member in farming. “Short-term gains are nice, but we are looking for long-term sustainability.”


His advice to others considering sustainable farming:

  • Try new things.
  • Talk to neighbors and groups in your area using practices that interest you.
  • Conduct online research and seek information from your local Natural Resources Conservation Service and Soil and Water Conservation District.