Steve: Farming, Family and Hog Honey

posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Steve with tractor in a filed at harvest.As a lifelong farmer, there are a few things Steve Boender knows for sure.

One is that he’s been blessed to farm and build a livelihood in agriculture with his family. And two, h’s blessed again to have access to swine manure—which he lovingly refers to as “hog honey”—to fertilize his crops.

Steve farms in southern Iowa with his family. Together, they run their farming operation and Boender Custom Farming. His son, Karl and his wife, Kirstin, also have a Becks Seed dealership called K and K Seed.

For over 20 years, he’s received manure from Iowa Select Farms. Before that, his family raised hogs and custom-fed for others in the area, making him no stranger to the benefits of using hog manure as fertilizer for his corn and soybeans.

The most impactful change we are making on our farming operation isn’t new technology or equipment; it’s happening under our feet,” explains Boender. “Our soil health keeps improving; we can see it in our soil profile and crop yields.”

Boender says he’s used manure as fertilizer on several different soil types, and all have seen an increase in soil health over time.

“When you combine last year’s crop residue and the hog honey, it makes a huge difference in how that crop will perform,” said Boender. “Our fields with higher yields make good use of the honey, so it’s good from an environmental standpoint but also for our operation to be profitable.”

He also tips his hat to manure for its nutrient availability to the plant. Steve has a unique way of applying his nutrients to ensure the plant gets what it needs during its critical life stages. He attributes much of the success to manure for its profile and how it interacts with the soil and plants.

“Dry soil in this area is a gift,” said Steve, who explains that it can be tough to have a good environment to plant into, especially in early April, when Steve and his family prefer to get the crop in the ground.

If the spring is dry and warm, they can utilize no-till. If the spring is cooler and wetter, they will do a minimum till to help dry the soil. “Either way, we’re still preserving residue to build organic matter and keep the topsoil where it is.”

Steve says he plants cereal rye cover crops on all their corn stalks going to soybeans, another way to help dry out soil earlier in the spring. More ways to keep the soil in place and build its profile.

“Iowa Select Farms has been a great partner to us,” said Steve. “The biggest difference between hog manure in the 1980s and today is the tremendous improvement in how it’s stored, handled and applied.”

Steve says Iowa Select Farms goes above and beyond to steward nutrients responsibly. “The way it’s applied, their recordkeeping and overall professional approach to nutrient management help our operation succeed now and in the future.”