Fourth Generation Farmer from Shell Rock Recognized for Environmental Leadership

posted on Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Clay Reints doesn’t settle for “good enough.” He is always searching for ways to improve upon his work—whether it’s enhancing farming efficiency, yields, or soils and water. That strong drive to make things better is why he was also recognized as an Iowa Environmental Farm Leader.


The fourth-generation farmer from Shell Rock comes by his passion for improvement honestly. He is the second generation in his family to receive the award. As an early adopter of no-till soybeans and strip-till corn, his father Jeff was recognized as a farm environmental leader in 2015.

Clay joined his father on their corn-bean operation in 2007 and began pouring his innate passion into the farm. His knowledge of farming and his college education in manufacturing helped him build on what his father started. “We take a continuous approach to stay ahead of the curve,” he says.


Clay farms because he loves ag and enjoys taking on new challenges. “There are always hurdles that get thrown in your way and there are moments when I ask, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But you learn more every year—every day. I love it!”

As a father of two young children, Clay explains that his motivation to be a good steward of the land is to leave it better for his kids. “We’re not in it for the short run. The soil is a lifelong asset that we need to continue to build for future generations.”

Beyond soil and water conservation, his stewardship practices have additional benefits. Clay uses injected hog manure, strip-till, no-till, cover crops and split applications of nitrogen through the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program. Together, these practices help him build soil health, increase productivity, improve efficiency, and protect his crop from major weather events like drought and floods.


“These practices are protecting us from potential weather related risks,” he explains. Clay continues to improve his strip-tilling technology and techniques to enhance the tillage in the planting zone and refine the timing of his tillage operation.

Today he runs his 24-row strip-till rig a few days prior to planting corn to develop the ideal planting and growing environment. The method allows him to maximize corn emergence, keep residue on the field as long as possible, and preserve soil moisture through the season.

Every season, Clay’s goal is to plant rye cover crops on 2/3 of his acres going into soybeans and 20% of his corn ground. The practice has enabled him to improve the soil, cut erosion, and reduce weed pressure. He has overcome the challenges of corn planted into rye by managing it differently than he does with soybeans, terminating it well ahead of the planter.

Clay added injected hog manure from Iowa Select Farms to his operation in 2016. In the spring of 2019, cool, wet conditions delayed planting and slowed the growth of the corn crop, but the benefits of manure were obvious.

“Despite a tough start, the corn really shined this spring on the farms where we used hog manure and strip-tilled,” he explains. Injected hog manure provided much-needed phosphorous and nitrogen to Clay’s developing corn crop, enabling it to thrive in the harsh conditions.

The use of injected hog manure is one of several stewardship practices that led to Clay’s recognition as an environmental leader. “We’ve had really good luck with it,” he says. “The fields that receive manure are fantastic.” 
Clay reports that manure is a great value because it’s delivering both macronutrients and key micronutrients while building the soil profile.

He works with Iowa Select Farms to develop a nutrient management plan and schedule application to coordinate timing and placement of injected manure. “Our applicators understand our farm and our conservation practices.”

Despite the award, Clay has no plans to settle on his current practices as being “good enough.” For the coming growing season, he plans to increase his use of manure and add cover crop mixes to his operation.

Congratulations, Clay, on earning the honor of Iowa Farm Environmental Leader!