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5 questions for: Wade Bitz, president of Nourish Farms Inc.

Q: What is your role in agriculture today? A: My role in agriculture is currently equal parts innovator and survivalist. The primarily small grain operation, Nourish Farms Inc., my father and I operate in north-central Montana's Golden Triangle i...

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Q: What is your role in agriculture today?

A: My role in agriculture is currently equal parts innovator and survivalist. The primarily small grain operation, Nourish Farms Inc., my father and I operate in north-central Montana's Golden Triangle is tooled for small grains. It's what we know and do relatively well.

Input costs, market conditions and soil health goals are pushing us outside of that comfort zone; which is not an enjoyable place to reside with inverted profit margins.

Our strategy to weather this storm is to implement variable rate technology paired with soil and production data to help reduce input costs and maximize yields. We are also increasing our cropping system diversity with legumes.

Q: What made you decide to come back to the farm instead of growing your previous architecture career?

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A: In 2004, my father reached out to my wife and I with the news that he and my mother were planning to retire. At the time, I had been working in architecture for five years and, while I enjoyed my career, I knew my true passion was in ag.

My employer, CTA Architects and Engineers, allowed me the opportunity to work remotely, on my schedule, and on projects that fit within my new 'farchitecture' job title.

This arrangement worked well for five additional years until increasing farm obligations, a growing family and an interest in occasionally sleeping pushed me to cut my ties with corporate architecture.

I currently run Nourish Design, LLC as a side business, completing small projects in the off season. And, thankfully, my father has yet to fully retire.

Q: How do you educate yourself on new farming practices and technology?

A: Fortunately, in addition to the knowledge gleaned from my father, I am surrounded by many successful and innovative neighbors that have been great role models and mentors.

Agriculture is unlike many other industries in the respect that success is shared and encouraged among competitors. But, no one has offed a foolproof, magic equation for success that can out-think mother nature. Subsequently, I also look to the ag university, cropping consultants, and ag organizations such as Montana Grain Growers and Montana Farmers Union.

Q: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

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A: Gabe Brown, of Bismarck, N.D., or any number of his peers in the no-till, cover-cropping movement. I find the tenacious and data-driven approach Brown has implemented to elevate his soil health and reduce his dependence on commercial inputs to be nothing short of amazing.

As costs continue to increase and weigh on profits, I see these techniques becoming vital to my long-term survival. That said, transitioning from our current practices without sacrificing yields or losing farm program and insurance safety nets in these lean years is a nagging concern.

Q: What is sustainability to you and how do you implement it on your farm?

A: Sustainability is a multifaceted issue including environmental, economic and rural livability concerns. Naturally, the core of the issue is environmental; soil health, mitigation of erosion, increasing biodiversity to combat insect predators and disease pathogens. The economics of agriculture seem to honor a time-worn tradition of high peaks and low lows. Finding ways to smooth that cycle are important to me. Increasing market diversity in my operation, and being cognizant of macro-scale market drivers will be help me be more proactive than reactive. Currently, we practice no-till agriculture and variable rate application to increase our environmental and economic sustainability.

Would you like to be featured in this segment or know of someone who would make an interesting profile? Contact Katie Pinke at kpinke@agweek.com .

Related Topics: FARMINGPEOPLECROPS
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