By Connor Lynch
PUTNAM — Middlesex County dairy farmer Dan Breen has taken home the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s (OSCIA) top prize.
The OSCIA chose Breen, who farms at Putnam, just east of London, as the 2018 soil champion.
Breen bought out his family’s 100-acre farm in 1989. He immediately had a choice to make: Either replace his family’s tillage equipment or try something new.
The next year, he was trying no-till on 40 acres of corn.
The farm has come a long way since. Breen owns 300 acres and rents an additional 500, and across that acreage all kinds of conservation efforts are underway. Cover crops entered the rotation about 12 years ago, with 100 acres getting rotated through alfalfa, corn, soybeans, and wheat. On his farm, the only acreage without year-round cover is his grain corn, he said.
“Nature is in balance, and we mess up that balance with excessive tillage, taking out too many nutrients, or not providing biodiversity. We need to provide a stable environment as we go about our farming practices,” Breen said.
For other farmers looking to do the same, Breen recommended perseverance. Transition gradually, keep going even when you doubt how well it’s working, and resist the naysayers.
Breen considers the land that he farms to be as much his responsibility as it is his right to work it. “I hope I leave it in better shape than when I found it — and I hope my daughter and son-in-law do the same thing.”