Field-scale trials help fine-tune farming practices

Jordan and Jennifer Lindgren credit their success, in large part, to their commitment to learning — whether that’s trialling new products and technologies or hosting education-based programs on their land. They know that in order to make the most of every acre they farm, they have to know what does and doesn’t work. For the past three years, the Lindgrens have partnered with Prairie Soil Services as part of its Field of Dreams program — large scale field trials that strive to maximize productivity, yield and profitability.

The couple set aside two 80-acre plots — one for grains, one for oilseeds — to determine how they can get the highest yield possible using new genetics, application technology and fertilizer rates. With a quarter section of their farm devoted to field-scale trials, they have measurable results that can impact their entire operation.

“There is a ton of material you can read about different products, equipment or ideas — there are so many different things you can try,” says Jordan. “But there is nothing like first-hand experience to see how things will work on your own farm, with your own conditions. We’re always trying to figure out what works best and this program lets us try a bit of everything.”

The Lindgrens are the 2018 Saskatchewan region winners of the Outstanding Young Farmers’ Program award. The Norquay, SK area couple own and operate an 11,500-acre, 100-year-old grain and oilseeds farm that rotates primarily between wheat and canola. They also do some custom farming to help make the most of their equipment and resources.

Jordan says they apply what they’ve learned to the rest of their farm in subsequent seasons. For example, following several years trialling pod shatter canola varieties, they’ve sold their swather and made the switch to straight cutting. They then took the savings from the sale of the swather and bought another sprayer to maximize crop protection applications.

“We also realized that top dressing nitrogen had a big impact on our wheat,” says Jordan. “We want to grow our yield and our protein to make the most profit out of every acre. There is more to make on wheat than some might think, if you work to get the most out of every plant.”

On the flip side, they have tried varieties that didn’t perform on their land based on their particular growing conditions and farming practices. They have also pushed the limits on how narrow they can space their rows before the equipment isn’t able to manage the logistics. All these trials have given them a relatively risk-free way to fine-tune their farming practices.

“You need to find your ‘tipping point,'” says Jordan. “You can throw everything at your crop but if you are spending a dollar to make a quarter you have gone over that point. We are always looking to expand our operation but we are also working to get the best return on each and every acre we plant.”

Family first

The Lindgrens took the farm over when Jordan’s dad and uncle retired. Jordan’s parents still live on the farm. And while the farm has two full-time employees, it’s all hands on deck at seeding and harvest when they hire seasonal workers and bring Jordan’s dad and uncle out of retirement.

“Our employees are part of our farm family,” says Jennifer. “We make sure that everyone knows they play an important role in how we run our farm. Even the kids need to know that they have a role to play, and they learn a lot about what we do just by being out in the field.”

Every decision that the Lindgrens make keeps their family and the future of their operation in mind. They are parents to four children — Jaxon, Alexis, Westin and Bristol. Everyone in the family plays a role and by keeping their children connected to the farm the Lindgrens hope to maintain their children’s interest in the business going forward.

“All of our kids say they want to be farmers, but they are still young,” says Jennifer. “Our family motto is to work hard and play hard. We make sure to take time to distance ourselves from the farm and shut off. We volunteer in the community and we recently bought a cabin that is completely off the grid. You never really get away from the farm, but we do want our kids to learn about balance.”

Paying it forward

The Lindgrens have also made education a big part of how they run their farm. They partner with Prairie Soil Services to run the Field of Dreams program, they work closely with their agronomist to put together trials, and host two tours a year that include local farmers, company representatives, agronomists and equipment manufacturers.

“These farm tours give everyone the opportunity to showcase what they have to offer,” says Jordan. “We also have a trade show and include guest speakers to talk on current topics in the industry. It’s essentially an opportunity for our peer group to get together, network and generate new ideas.”

This year the Lindgrens partnered with Agriculture in the Classroom Saskatchewan, to host groups of Grade 3 and Grade 4 students on their farm as part of their Farm Food program. Jennifer says that it is important for all kids — even rural kids — to learn more about where their food comes from.

“Kids read so much online and get so much misinformation, sometimes it is surprising how much they don’t know about farming and food,” says Jennifer. “We want to help educate that generation with real information and to show them not to be scared about what they eat. We also talk about farm safety as even urban kids will often use lawnmowers, and the safety message is the same.”

The Lindgrens hosted a spring Farm Food Day and plan to close out the season with a harvest event. In the spring they had 150 kids tour their operation, and found there were countless volunteers willing to help out.

When they look ahead, their primary focus is on leaving the farm in better shape than when they got it. “We want to be successful, but there are a lot of factors that go into that success,” says Jennifer. “We want to use the land, but not abuse it. We have to be environmental stewards if we want to keep the land producing for our kids into the future.”

Jordan says that they will continue to try promising technology first-hand to learn what works best for them. “We are constantly growing, sometimes increasing the size of our farm if the opportunity arises, and sometimes just with better genetics and production. I don’t know if there is a limit to what we can grow on our current acres — but we’re going to keep trying to reach it.”