Lawton, North Dakota
Farm Credit Affiliation
AgCountry Farm Credit Services
Due to its northern latitude, North Dakota faces a shorter growing season than most U.S. states, and its farmers typically produce only once crop per season. That is until Justin Zahradka started working with the Northeast North Dakota Cover Crops Project, and helped demonstrate that through use of the right processes, North Dakota land can sustain more crops than previously expected.
Running his own crop and livestock operation for four years now, college senior Justin was the first in his local area to use cover crops behind a cash crop. He’s also proven the efficacy of raising a cash crop and then livestock on the same land planted with cover crops, and of raising two crops in a single year.
“Knowing that we must produce more food with less arable land is a challenge I’ve embraced through leadership and production,” Justin says. “Growers have doubled the amount of cover crops planted each year due in part to my demonstration and education.”
Justin’s success has encouraged many other producers to use cover crops in their operations, and earned him a national FFA award for his work. Justin also collected data on rate of gain for beef cows and calves on cover crops in Northeastern North Dakota that is used to this day.
“My vision is to better agriculture by refining a farming system that has plants growing in the soil all year and adds diversity with livestock, a system that builds up our soil, environment, and well-being that will produce food with less water and inputs, and with resilience to climate change,” he says.
Justin’s efforts have proven that sustainable practices can be profitable for producers of all sizes, and he’s bolstered his sustainability efforts by converting Conservation Reserve Program land to crops in his county. Active in both FFA and 4-H, Justin’s success has also made him a sought after speaker throughout North Dakota.
As a young farmer, it’s natural for Justin to look forward: “I may have only 50 growing seasons in my lifetime to directly impact production agriculture. By sharing my talents and knowledge, my results will be carried on,” he says. “I’m committed to do my part to exert a positive influence in my community, nation and the world."
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