Sarah: Nutrient Management a Rewarding Profession

posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Sarah “This position, for me, brings together everything I love about agriculture,” says Sarah Hockemeyer, nutrient services manager and contract grower for Iowa Select Farms. “I have a deep passion for pig farming and agronomy, and this career path fuses those.”

Sarah is part of a ten-person field-based team that oversees manure storage and application, manure management planning and compliance with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The team has a big job, especially during the fall when 90 percent of manure generated on Iowa Select’s farms is applied to 160,000 acres of cropland.

“Before application season, our team reaches out to our farmer network to identify fields and soils that need manure nutrients. We then calculate the appropriate manure application rate based on the crop nutrient needs and the soil and manure characteristics,” said Sarah.

She says data from manure samples, soil samples and crop rotations drive their decision-making. “Then, we’re connecting what’s in the manure storage structures with our 80 custom manure applicators and 1,731 farmers.”

Sarah says that during the application season, the entire team is focused on precision application and safety, all fundamentally driven by heightened awareness and good communication in the field.

“We stay flexible to adjust to the weather,” Sarah explains. “We keep our phones in arms reach at all hours of the day to make sure our farmers, applicators and barn managers can reach us.”

During the “off-season,” Sarah and the team are fielding DNR inspections, updating soil samples and mapping new fields.

More recently, the team has taken on areas of building in-field and edge-of-field conservation practices in their farmer network through the Smart Soil Partnership Program, which is rewarding to Sarah.

Sarah says she’s combining soil science, compliance, communication, conservation and crop science all in one role. “It’s inspiring to me how we’re always looking ahead and improving everything we do here. It’s exciting to be a part of this important component of agriculture’s contribution to society.”