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Pictured Above: PREPPING THE SOIL. Strip-tilling creates a favorable environment for corn planting in the heavy clay soils on Jeff Gaska’s Columbus, Wis., operation. Gaska designed and built this strip-till rig using a John Deere cultivator as the base and added row cleaners, a combined depth gauge and single coulter, a mole knife and two trailing coulters.
TURNING A PROFIT on a small family farm these days requires flexibility and the willingness to think outside the box. For Jeff Gaska, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on 450 acres in Columbus, Wis., diversification is key. A small area dedicated to pasture rounds out the land usage and Gaska currently raises about 30 cow-calf pairs, with the intention of gradually increasing that to 50 pairs over the next 4-5 years.“These days, trying to make a living farming 450 acres of grain is just tough. There are good years and there are bad years,” says Gaska, who gets help on the farm from his wife, Sara, and his brothers John and Jerry — all of whom have primary employment elsewhere. “But cattle seem pretty stable, and since we’re able to sell a lot of it locally, the price doesn’t fluctuate very much.” So the Gaskas are implementing a system of rotational grazing to maximize land use and improve the soil. “The goal is to use the cattle to feed the crops,” Gaska says. “Their manure nourishes the plants and raises soil organic matter, leading to better crops and better cattle. It’s…
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