A pair of northeast Colorado farmers were recently honored by the two Colorado Corn organizations, for their many efforts aimed at improving efficiency on their farms and enhancing air, soil and water quality.
During the Colorado Corn Annual Banquet in Yuma this month, Casey Kropp of Holyoke received Colorado Corn’s inaugural Farm Steward of the Year-Innovator Award, presented by both the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee (CCAC) and the Colorado Corn Growers Association (CCGA).
Also during the banquet, Byron Weathers received the inaugural Colorado Corn Farm Steward of the Year-Excellence in Conservation Award, another honor presented by both the CCAC and CCGA.
The two winners were selected from a pool of statewide applicants, by a committee of Colorado Corn board members and other experts in agriculture, conservation and sustainability.
In addition to the awards banquet recognition, Casey and Byron will also receive the CCAC and CCGA’s nominations for the National Corn Growers Association’s (NCGA) Good Steward Recognition – a national honor that includes a $10,000 cash award for the winner, among other prizes.
“There are certainly many Colorado farmers who are implementing the latest-and-greatest technologies and production methods, to enhance their conservation and stewardship efforts, and the two Colorado Corn organizations wanted to honor the producers taking these efforts to new heights,” said Colorado Corn CEO Mark Sponsler. “While it wasn’t easy to select just two winners from the applications we received, it was exciting to learn more about the many stewardship endeavors being implemented by our state’s producers. We hope these new awards can help shine a light on our numerous, forward-thinking land stewards, and the best-management practices taking place on Colorado’s farms.”
Colorado Corn Farm Steward of the Year-Innovator Award Winner: Casey Kropp
Having not grown up on a farm, Casey brought an outside perspective and eagerness to learn to the table when he married into his in-laws’ operation. Now farming his own operation, he’s put both of those qualities to use on his 1,300 acres of center-pivot irrigated ground near Holyoke.
Working in sandy loam, Casey became aware early on of his soil’s limited organic matter and high potential for erosion, and began researching soil health and working closely with the USDA-NRCS to gain further understanding of soil-health principles. He’s since been awarded two Environmental Quality Incentives Program grants to help convert 100 percent of his operation from conventional disking to strip-tillage.
Casey also utilizes soil-moisture probes for irrigation scheduling, as well as variable-rate seeding using prescription and yield maps. He’s ultimately looking to create a year-round living environment for soil microbial life, and with the recent addition of cover crops, he’s close to achieving his goal. By building up organic matter and soil health, Casey has cut water usage by 10 percent, as well as chemical inputs.
Going forward, Casey says he’ll continue collecting data and analyzing his soil samples to examine the future potential of expanded conservation efforts. He’s also looking into the agricultural energy audits offered by the Colorado Department of Energy, to look at possible energy-saving avenues, as well as incorporating remote-sensing technology to further his stewardship endeavors even more so.
Colorado Corn Farm Steward of the Year-Excellence in Conservation Award Winner: Byron Weathers
While Byron and his wife, LaLani, began farming in 1974, each of their families’ histories in Yuma County ag dates back long before that, and stewardship of the land has been integral as each generation has become involved.
Currently, Byron’s operation encompasses nearly 3,000 acres of irrigated and dryland corn, wheat and popcorn. The family farm has several locations with very sandy ground, but early on in his career, Byron utilized crop rotations that allowed him to use a no-till planting approach, building soil organic matter, and in many cases also improved yields.
Byron has always been an early adopter of technology that’s improved soil quality and reduced water usage. In the early 1990s, he purchased the first of his strip-till equipment, using it on his entire operation, and allowing him to make fewer passes through each field – cutting down on diesel fuel usage and emissions, and again leading to increases in yields and soil health.
Additionally, Byron – who’s also a Conklin Fertilizer dealer, and a former Colorado Corn Growers Association president and Republican River Water Conservation District board member – was an early adopter of many other technologies; dual-rate planters, GPS, zone-soil sampling, variable-rate seeding and fertilization, remote-sprinkler monitoring, micro-nutrient feeding and seed treatments, just to name a few.
Colorado Corn, based in Greeley, is made up of the Colorado Corn Growers Association and Colorado Corn Administrative Committee. The Colorado Corn Growers Association (CCGA) is comprised of dues-paying members who are politically active, focusing on policy that impacts corn producers and agriculture in general. The Colorado Corn Administrative Committee (CCAC) oversees how Colorado’s corn check-off dollars (one penny per bushel of corn produced in the state) are spent on research, market development, outreach, education and other various endeavors. See more about the work of the two organizations at www.coloradocorn.com.