By Lori Kuykendall, Osage County Conservation District
Osage County’s 2017 Young Farmer Award winner Erik Finch.
This year’s Osage County Young Farmer Award recipient is Erik Finch. Erik and his wife Amanda were married in 2008 and live north of Overbrook. Amanda is a registered nurse at St. Francis Health Center, in Topeka. She enjoys helping on the farm when she’s able.
Erik is a first generation farmer. Farming was the only career he thought about as a child. He has been fascinated with everything to do with agriculture since his earliest memory.
While in high school Erik had the opportunity to help a neighbor with a small cow calf herd. He started his own farming career with one heifer when he was 16. In the fall of 2007 he rented his first 50 acres and planted his first wheat crop.
His farming operation has expanded since then. He now has a small cow calf herd and grows corn, soybeans and wheat in southeastern Shawnee and northeastern Osage counties. Soil health is important to Erik. He is a no-till farmer and has seen the benefits the last three years with the heavy rainfall. The residue and standing cover help hold the soil. The residue also improves the soil structure which in turn promotes aeration, infiltration and percolation resulting in less runoff.
To improve the soil health even further he is interested in trying some cover crops in the near future. Cover crops not only help prevent soil erosion and improve soil health, they can also help suppress weeds and recycle needed nutrients.
Structural practices, like terraces and waterways are also important on some soil types to help reduce runoff and prevent erosion. Erik utilized the water resources cost share program in Osage County to rebuild a grassed waterway that serves as a stable outlet for the terraces. Funding for this program is provided by the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Conservation, through appropriation from the Kansas Water Plan Fund.
Erik also applied for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offered by Natural Resources Conservation Service to do some additional conservation work. EQIP offers the flexibility to spread the implementation of conservation practices out over three or four years. The program also offsets some of the cost associated with trying something new such as cover crops.
Farming is not a cheap career to get into and it is rare to find a first generation farmer. Erik enjoys the fast pace of spring planting and fall harvest and the ability to network with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds.
“No two days on the farm are quite alike,” Erik said.
For all his efforts, Erik and Amanda are very deserving of Osage County’s Young Farmer Award.
Join with the Osage County Conservation District at 6 p.m. Jan. 30, 2017, at Osage City High School to help honor Erik.