(Editor's note: This growing season Emily Beal will be checking in from time to time with the Spiekermeier family about what they're doing on their farm.)

Dan Spiekermeier and his son, Nathan, come from a long legacy of agriculturalists. The third and fourth generation to tend to the soil in their family, the two are adding new conservation practices to their operation in an effort to boost soil health.

“I am still living in the place I was born at, it’s strong heritage,” Dan said.

The Spiekermeiers own and operate their family’s 1,300 acre farm that resides one mile south of Sheldon, N.D. They focus mainly on corn and soybeans, but have grown sunflowers and alfalfa in the past. The duo really began their conservation efforts in 2013, when they started strip tilling their fields.

Dan and Nathan Spiekermeier have adopted strip tilling in their production and have been pleased with its results. Photo taken May 25, 2021, at Sheldon, N.D. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Dan and Nathan Spiekermeier have adopted strip tilling in their production and have been pleased with its results. Photo taken May 25, 2021, at Sheldon, N.D. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
“We do it for conservation, mostly. Trying to save the ground, soil health and costs. You save a lot of cost on fertilizer and time,” Dan said.

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The pair saw a return in their new practice and decided to make it a part of their operation permanently.

“A couple years into it we started seeing big gains in soil health and in yields and water conservation,” Nathan said. “We started doing cover crops about four years ago now.”

According to Dan, Nathan has brought fresh ideas to the family’s operation, many of which include new technology since Nathan joined the farm in 2012.

“I always have some crazy ideas, especially like the interseeder and stuff like that. My dad is very willing to go around some of my ideas and help me along the way to just implementing them better into the operation,” Nathan said.

The Spierkermeiers’ planting season went relatively smoothly. They started putting seeds in the ground April 29, which is earlier than they normally would. However, due to the colder temperatures, they had to halt planting for a short period of time.

Despite having to wait out the cold, the pair had a smooth planting season. Photo taken May 25, 2021, at Sheldon, North Dakota. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Despite having to wait out the cold, the pair had a smooth planting season. Photo taken May 25, 2021, at Sheldon, North Dakota. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
"It was really nice when we first started, the corn germinated within a few days, but it just got cold after that. So, we took five days off of planting and did other things and waited for things to warm up,” Dan said. “That seedling just lays in the ground and doesn’t do anything until it finally warms up.”

Dan is also on the North Dakota Soybean Council and has been surprised by seeing the impact the council has first hand on the state’s soybean industry.

“Just getting on the Soybean Council is an eye-opening experience, just to know how much our fingers are into and how much we have helped the soybean industry. There would not be this amount of acres in North Dakota if it wouldn't have been for the North Dakota Soybean Council,” Dan said.

Dan has a strong sense of community, offering his time to his county’s Farmer’s Union board and even served as the president of it for many years. He also dedicates his time to his local fire department.

“Both Nathan and I are on our local fire department. It’s a small town so I'm the chief and he’s assistant chief. Another real rewarding experience and being able to help people,” Dan Spiekermeier said.