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Farmer Diversifies Knowledge, Chooses No-Till

Northwestern Kansas farmer Michael Thompson gained his ground in agriculture when he was given a unique opportunity to diversify his knowledge and techniques in farming.

“My dad did the best thing ever for me,” says the Farmers for the Future member. “He had me go work for our neighbors. I learned different management and farming styles, including irrigation, which I knew nothing about due to being a dryland farmer.”

Starting at the age of 10, he worked for others and saved money so he could purchase his own land when he reached 21. He worked for others and on his own land while going to college full time, graduating in diesel mechanics and then earning teaching and master’s degrees. 

Almost 10 years later, Thompson now works with his father (a full-time farmer) and his younger brother growing wheat, corn, and hay, and raising beef cattle in both Nebraska and Kansas. When he’s not teaching, he farms land he owns and rents. 

Education holds great value in his farming practices.

“The best thing I learned from my grandfather is that I can never read too much,” he says. “I am an avid reader, and I keep adopting new things on my farm – most notably cover crops and rotational grazing. Both practices grow our farm without us having to buy more land.”

Reading and seeing numerous perspectives on farming gave Thompson space to form his own opinions rather than simply to accept the practices passed down from his father. He is convinced that no-till is the only way to farm and has no-tilled for seven years.

Thompson has a bit of advice for other beginning farmers on the network. 

“If you’re on a limited budget, look at getting the most out of the land you farm by soil building instead of trying to buy more and more acres,” he says. 

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