John Shepherd, a 27-year-old grain farmer from Blackstone, Virginia, has been named the 2012 Young Sustainable Farmer by Bayer CropScience at the 2012 Ag Issues Forum in Nashville, Tenn. during the 2012 Commodity Classic.
The award, sponsored by Bayer CropScience LP, recognizes young agricultural producers who demonstrate excellence in business and environmental sustainability. Entrants are judged on entrepreneurial initiative and new approaches to farming, environmental and other on-farm sustainability efforts, and economic stability.
"We believe America can take much pride in our young farm leaders. John Shepherd is a tremendous example of young farmers who are passionate about American agriculture. He's proven to be a successful businessman, while actively working to improve agronomic and environmental conditions on the land he farms," says Nick Hamon, head of sustainability with Bayer CropScience.
Shepherd and his business partner, Jordan Brandon, operate Tri County Grain Farms, LLC, where they farm 1,350 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and barley. Shepherd's barley won the Virginia state yield contest with a yield of 152.26 bushels per acre. He also ranked second in state wheat yields with 120.89 bushels per acre.
He attributes his success in large part to having a detailed nutrient management plan for each field. Through ongoing soil and tissue sample analysis, Shepherd fine-tunes nutritional programs all season long. By doing so he helps better identify nutrient deficiencies before they become a problem, while avoiding environmental problems from excess nutrient applications. And as a certified nutrient management planner, Shepherd also helps other farmers produce nutrient management plans for their farms.
"Tissue sampling is very easy to do and is really key to our whole operation," Shepherd says. "It tells us exactly what the nutrient content is of the plant and helps us adjust nutrient delivery. That way we don't overapply nutrients, which saves us money and boosts yields."
"Sustainable farming is not only about making a profit, but being a good steward of the land for future generations," says Shepherd. "I believe that it is our duty as stewards of the land to not only prevent further degradation of resources, but to leave that land better than we found it. This is my goal on all the land that I farm." As this year's award recipient, Shepherd will receive a new laptop computer and expense-paid trips to the 2012 Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Farm Journal Corn College during the summer of 2012.