Meet Heath HIll, AgVenture Farmer
I am 46 years old and the third-generation farmer on a century farm in Iowa that’s been in our family since 1909. I have a wife, Lesli, and a 16-year-old son. I farm with my father Craig on about 750 acres, and everything is precision farmed. We plant about 75% corn and 25% soybeans, though this year we will be almost two-thirds corn and one-third soybeans. Our dirt’s a little too black for a 50/50 rotation with corn and soybeans, so we usually do a two-year or three-year corn to every year soybeans.
We’re located about 20 miles north and two miles east of Ames, Iowa, in a town called Ellsworth. I’m fortunate in that my parents still own the home on the land, and I arguably live in the most beautiful acreage in the state of Iowa. It is an insane amount of work to mow, but we have a baseball field out front and all kinds of things. Even the barn, which is the oldest structure on the property from 1909, is gorgeous. About seven years ago, every single piece of wood on the exterior was removed and replaced with shiplap or tongue-and-groove boards and then repainted, so it’s very well kept.
I’ve never waxed my planter, but I wax everything else — the combine at least once a year, our tractors twice a year. I even wax the ripper. People think we’re a little bit finicky, but that’s just the way we’re going to be.
Working with AgVenture
We’ve been planting AgVenture corn for three years now, and we have grown test plots the last couple of years. Initially, we hadn’t heard of AgVenture, so we started out very small with the acres we planted with them — but this next year they’ll encompass more than half of our acres. I think also we’ve influenced a number of others around here — and in our area, change is kind of slow. “Grandma always cuts the ham in half,” as they say. Even giving 25% per year to a different seed company is pretty dramatic around here, but with AgVenture, we’ve been more dramatic than we’ve ever been with any company.
AgVenture’s seed quality, precision and attention to detail were what drew us in — as well as their willingness to help manage and fine-tune an organization. If you’ve got 3,000 acres, you can afford to make a few mistakes. If you have 750, you can’t. So we really have to get it right. Josh and Jim and Merlin and everybody at AgVenture in Ames truly go the extra mile — almost to being annoying at times (in a nice way). Josh is my AgVenture Yield Specialist and the guy I work with the most. We have a daily or weekly interaction. Then with seed size and selection, not only is Josh 100% available, but I can also call Merlin or Jim and say, “OK, here’s what I’m looking at. Here’s what we planted the last two years. How are they going to interact? What do we need to put on for insecticide? Etc.” All of them are very knowledgeable.
When Josh comes to the farm, he’s out here scouting, evaluating the planting depth, and he gives me a report card of how well I do — and it’s a written, half-sheet report card. That is comical if you think of what other seed companies do. There is no one who has ever given me a report card — and I love it. I love the fact that they’re critiquing me, saying things like, “You’re planting a bit too fast,” or “You’re going a bit too shallow.” Planter report cards are a big deal. Then Josh will come out three weeks later and do a Net Effective Plant Stand (NEPS) test . If you ask any other farmer what NEPS is, they won’t have a clue what you’re talking about. But again, that’s the precision of AgVenture. If you have to operate on 750 acres, you do it well. But we’d do this again if we had 3,000 acres; we’d sill operate at this level of criticism or critique.