Rick Clark. Warren County, Indiana.
Fifth-generation grower Rick Clark farms on the Indiana-Illinois border. One of the largest producers in his area, Clark has an uncompromising focus on practices that foster the long-term health of his land, which he’s transitioned to a cover cropping, no-till system over the past 20 years.
Clark wasn’t always a regenerative farmer — he used to till the ground multiple times both in the fall and the spring. But one spring while prepping 400 acres to till for corn, he watched a single inch of rain completely erode the soil. He saw it as a sign something had to change.
The next fall, Clark planted limited acres of no-till radishes as a cover crop for corn. After one year of no-tilling, those fields were his top performers, motivating Clark to expand his no-till acreage every year. In the third year of this new quest, Clark no-till planted 1500 acres of corn into green growing cover crops to produce the second best yielding fields on his farm.
Clark’s recipe for soil health involves covering fields with a carefully balanced combination of species. In this management-intensive process, Clark follows nature’s lead to foster symbiotic relationships in the soil chemical inputs cannot. Over time, his system has restored optimal soil pH without added nitrogen or other inputs. “We have not applied aglime in five years and our average pH is 6.8 and rising,” Clark says. “That validates to me that the system is working.”
Clark lets his cover crops reach full maturity before putting his cash crop into those fields. “I want to maximize what that cover crop can do for me,” Clark says. “If it’s a cereal rye, I want it to control erosion and sequester nutrients. If it’s a legume, I want it to fix nitrogen.”
Legumes are a key part of Clark’s cover cropping system, adding to the balanced diversity of his farm’s ecosystem. Today he plants 120 acres of PURIS non-GMO yellow field peas in early spring that come off by early July. In that time, they fix nitrogen for the next cash crop, this is one of many inputs that he has reduced on his farm. Rick is confident in saying that the farm is saving close to $750,000 per year do to reduced inputs.
“I can finish all my nitrogen needs with the PURIS pea,” Clark said. Adding to that economic impact is the reliable market for protein-rich peas, which PURIS buys back to produce ingredients for non-GMO foods.
Clark wants to see more farmers shift to regenerative practices. But he knows farmers won’t take business risks without reliable information. Clark shares his insight and successes with other growers locally and around the country, and PURIS is backing him up.
Our company is building a national network of growers with a diverse base of experience in cover cropping and regenerative ag practices. With a critical mass of farmers sharing guidance and plans that work on their land, we believe growers can seize new opportunities in good economic times and lessen the impact of bad years.