Business and farming conservation join hands

Alice Mannette
Steve Swaffar, executive director of No-till on the Plains, during an educational workshop for farmers in December, 2019 in Lyons, Kansas.

BERRYTON—A New Jersey-based food company is helping farmers in Kansas and Missouri learn the benefits of soil-conservation practices.

Country Crock, an Upfield brand, announced on Friday, they would partner with No-till on the Plains, an educational, agricultural non-profit organization located in Berryton, Kansas.

This three-year program will support farmers with soil health education and cost-share for cover crops. The initial collaboration will support farmers in eastern Kansas and far western Missouri who have at least 80 acres of land. This includes farmers in Greenwood and Lyon counties.

The program focuses on acres were not previously planted with a cover crop. Participating farmers will be reimbursed $10 per acre for the cost of the cover crop seed.

“Access to high quality farm-grown ingredients is critical for Country Crock, and we are committed to supporting the farmers that grow these ingredients through sustainable agriculture,” Marisa Kololyan, brand director of Country Crock said in a release. “With our new partnership with No-till on the Plains, we are formally committing to help Kansas farmers to grow these ingredients for years to come.”

The two organizations were brought together by the Kansas and Missouri Soybean commissions. Country Crock was interested in helping farmers invest in regenerative techniques.

Upfield produces Country Crock, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, Promise and Imperial. Country Crock has manufactured it’s plant-based spread in Johnson County, Kansas for three decades.

“We’ve been working on this for about six months,” said Steve Swaffar, executive director of No-till on the Plains. “The virus sort of put us on pause.”

Cover crops are planted between cash crops to protect the soil during fallow periods. These crops prevent soil erosion, increase water retention, suppress weeds, break pest cycles and increase nutrients. When combined with less soil disturbance, they retain carbon in the soil, helping the environment.

“We know practices like planting cover crops benefit our soil, farms, farmers and environment, which is why we are excited to be a partner in this program,” Swaffar said. “Cover crops are one piece of a systems approach to agriculture that promotes soil health, empowering farms to produce crops with fewer agriculture chemicals, use less water, decrease erosion on the land and protect our environment.”

No-till on the Plains will administer this new program, which will cover 13,000 acres during the first year. No-till will recruit and enroll eligible farmers, offer education and technical assistance, manage the financing and monitor and report on environmental outcomes.

Farmer information sessions for the cover crop program start this summer, with enrollment targeted for September 2020.