Stan owns and manages a 200+ acre diversified organic farm producing dozens of varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, drug-free free-range poultry and beef. He also grows organic dent corn, sweet corn, popcorn, food and feed grade soybeans and hard red wheat. 100% of his income comes from his farm and employs 6-8 people in the peak of the season.
He attributes most of his weed management success to the use of cover crops in the rotation. He tills for several flushes of weeds prior to planting. His 5 year crop rotation is wheat underseeded with red clover→clover→clover→corn (seeded down to rye or oats over winter)→soybeans. The red clover provides a nitrogen plowdown. The rye or oats are disked in prior to seeding soybeans, protecting the soil from erosion, providing green manure crops, and enhancing soil fertility. For Stan, red clover has proven to have the healthiest stand with the greatest soil benefit.
For pest and disease management, Stan has done a lot of on-farm research and variety trials to determine which breeds will best serve his operation. He rotates his animals through his organic paddocks, starting with beef cattle, followed by sheep, hogs, chickens and ducks. This system utilizes available nutrition, returns nutrients back to the soil, and promotes productivity from the forage mixes. Long periods of rest between livestock rotations break the life cycles of any pests deposited on pastures and allowed the forage to return to full stand.
Innovative marking is Stan’s strong suit. He sells direct to consumers at several farmers markets and has created the Triple “S” Farms Buying Club. For a modest deposit and monthly subscription price, members can received a family, couple, or single-sized box of his meat and poultry products. He is currently developing “cow shares” which will allow interested customers to be cooperative owners of a dairy cow that he will milk and care for, and then distribute frozen organic milk to the owners. He has been working with University of Illinois Extension to determine the feasibility of a multi-species, value-added processing plant.
Water has been an especially important indicator of the changes in Stan’s farm resources. The increase in his soil organic matter under organic practices has vastly increased the water-retaining capacity of his fields. He attributes much of this improvement to his cover-cropping practices. He also has planted buffer strips and fallow land to native prairie. He has seen an explosion in the wildlife on his farm.
Stan will be the first to admit that he is shy about public speaking, but nonetheless, he has become an educator in many different Illinois forums. He speaks very matter-of-factly about what he does and why. Having been a conventional farmer himself, he understands their skepticism, allowing him to more appropriately address their concerns.
Although he first joined OCIA in 1997, Stan has been certified by OCIA Illinois Chapter #1 since 2002. The Chapter went from 150+ members in the late 1990’s to 15 members in 2002, when Stan was elected President. His goal was to revitalize the chapter. Stan thinks OCIA serves small and medium-sized producers very well. The chapter now has over 75 members. Stan serves as an inspiration and resource for aspiring organic farmers, particularly through the Central Illinois Farm Beginnings program. This program provides classes and internship opportunities for people who wish to become sustainable farmers.
Stan feels that part of his success has been “leading by example.” Stan also says that “nothing is truly sustainable if you can’t pass it on”, so farm succession is also a major concern. He is delighted that his son has begun his own organic farming ventures at the home farm while obtaining his college degree. With his son involved, Stan says “farming has become fun again.”