“I was fortunate to have a pretty progressive father who let me make a lot of mistakes on his nickel,” says Hesterman
TODD HESTERMAN “I was fortunate to have a pretty progressive father who let me make a lot of mistakes on his nickel,” says Hesterman © David Ike

Food & Water Stories

Farmers at the Forefront of Sustainable Agriculture

Seven farmers share how they’re creating a lasting legacy for their family, their communities and nature.

There’s a growing movement among farmers to improve soil health  and nutrient management on their lands. By employing a suite of science-based practices, they’re able to improve crop yields, reduce input costs, and deliver a host of environmental benefits. Among those benefits are reduced soil erosion and nutrient loss, improved water quality, lower carbon footprint, increased resilience to weather extremes, and enhanced biodiversity.

The Nature Conservancy and partners are working to empower farmers with the resources and tools they need to meet the increasing demands of a growing global population, while safeguarding their livelihoods and protecting our lands and waters. It’s a win-win for people and nature.

In the following profiles, you’ll meet seven farmers within the Western Lake Erie Basin of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, who are using sustainable agriculture practices and seeing results in their bottom lines and their environmental impacts.

“We saw cover crops as something that could complement the no-till system—that those two conservation practices kind of fit together,” Sarah says.
BENOIT AND SARAH DELBECQ “We saw cover crops as something that could complement the no-till system—that those two conservation practices kind of fit together,” Sarah says. © Nestlé Purina PetCare Company

Sarah Delbecq’s family has been farming in Indiana since 1864. Now that she and her husband Benoit are running the farm, they are determined not only to continue the conservation practices her father used but also to expand them.

Read Sarah's Story

“I love it. I just have that love for nature and the earth," Roemke says.
BRIAN ROEMKE “I love it. I just have that love for nature and the earth," Roemke says. © Nestlé Purina PetCare Company

Farming is in Brian Roemke’s blood. He’s been farming his entire adult life, and he’s amassed a great deal of knowledge about his profession. Now he’s ready to give back—to future generations, to other farmers and to the environment.

Read Brian's Story

Today Dean is 100 percent no-till on his 1,900-acre Ohio farm.
Allen and brother Tony Dean Today Dean is 100 percent no-till on his 1,900-acre Ohio farm. © David Ike

Allen Dean wasn’t born into farming, so he had to learn on his own. What he’s learned in nearly 40 years of farming is that cover crops provide enormous benefits to farmers and the soils they farm. Now he is not only a farmer, but also a grower and seller of cover crop seeds. 

Read Allen's Story

Soil health is "like a balanced diet,” says Hesterman.
TODD HESTERMAN "We all need to make sure that we have these resources for the next generation and the generation after that," Todd says. © David Ike

Todd Hesterman prides himself on staying on top of the latest farming advancements. For his money, using the no-till practice (planting without plowing first) makes enormous sense—and dollars and cents—on his farm.

Read Todd's Story

Darling’s farm is certified by Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.
DOUG DARLING Darling’s farm is certified by Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program. © David Ike

Doug Darling is not afraid to experiment with new approaches to farming. His father before him tried no-till planting and saw strong results. Doug has embraced new techniques and found that implementing new conservation practices has made big differences on his farm.

Read Doug's Story

“I try to keep the water as clean as I can before it gets into a creek,” says Nusbaum.
BRIAN NUSBAUM “I try to keep the water as clean as I can before it gets into a creek,” says Nusbaum. © David Ike

Brian Nusbaum is always looking for money he can save on his farm or money he can gain from better yields. A Texas rancher told him there’s always $100 somewhere you can find on your farm. Brian has found those $100 bills many times over through soil health practices.

Read Brian's Story

Deep in the corn, planted on his Indiana yellow clay soils.
MIKE WERLING “Soil health is my number one thing right now," Mike says. © David Ike

Mike Werling, a fifth-generation farmer, first tried no-till planting to reduce erosion on his farm. It reduced erosion significantly. Then he found that no-till and cover cropping reduced his costs and improved his bottom line. 

Read Mike's Story