Three Cash Crops in Two Years? Indiana Farmer Thinks It’s Possible
Farming is therapy for Jason Mauck. When his father passed away in 2011, after only a year-long battle with cancer, Mauck took his grief to the fields instead of to the graveyard. The Gaston, Indiana, farmer invests his resources and ideas into the same soils his father worked in an effort to honor him and to build a future for his two young sons.
That wasn’t always his focus. At first, it was just about making money, Mauck says.
“When I first met him, he was more focused on year-to-year yields,” says Mauck’s wife, Kortnee. “The winter after we had our first son, I think his perspective shifted to long-term sustainability of the farm.”
Mauck has a sounding board in his uncle, Lewis Heaton. Heaton has a tough diagnosis: brain cancer. There’s little he is certain about, but one thing he knows for sure is he wants his nephew to get the chance to farm his land. Heaton loves Mauck’s energy, passion, and pursuit of higher yields, and wants to help his nephew be successful.
Heaton encourages Mauck’s different approach for the farm. His goal? Three cash crops in two years.
His Big Idea
Mauck’s obsession with lush, green landscapes started with some corn seed in a sandbox when he was a boy, and it grew with a landscaping business Mauck started after graduating college. Over the past seven years, he has slowly pulled back from that career to farm full time with his two uncles, grandpa, and cousin. Although he’s not running the operation alone, Mauck has his own unique approach to crop rotation that he calls Constant Canopy.
“The biggest waste in agriculture is the space between the rows,” says Mauck. By always keeping his soil busy growing and interplanting different cash and cover crops, Mauck is developing his own systems approach to farming.
For instance, Mauck planted radishes at the same time as his winter wheat in the fall of 2015 to completely suppress weed pressure and to use the radishes as nitrogen stabilizers, he says. He planted soybeans between his rows of winter wheat. When he harvested the wheat in 2016, the beans were already at V3.
Listen to Your Crops
Besides the 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat Mauck experiments with, he also keeps up about 100 acres of seed, 25,000 wean-to-finish pigs, manages an employee who takes care of mowing lawns and plowing snow, and maintains his own impeccably kept golf course.
Mauck gets frustrated by growers who buy the same inputs as their neighbors. He carefully watches his crops, diagnoses their needs, and tries to be responsive to crop needs.
“The crop is my boss,” he says. “It’s not what I want to do.”
Mauck, a DuPont Pioneer seed dealer, refuses to hold himself to a calendar – whether that be planting early or ignoring the fly-free dates.
“Instead of waiting for everything indirectly to grow, putting all that effort into the soil, we need to have plants actually growing and catching all that energy in leaves and photosynthesis,” Mauck says.
Shake Things Up
At the end of the day, Mauck is fighting marestail, waterhemp, spider mites, root worm, aphids, and unpredictable weather just like everyone else. But he refuses to stop experimenting, researching, and calculating how to deal with issues on the operation that will make the most money.
He wants to keep a green cover, limit the use of pesticides until he no longer needs them on the farm, and develop equipment that caters to the many ideas he’s experimenting with through Constant Canopy.
According to Mauck, his father’s pancreatic cancer likely had something to do with chemical exposure. That affects the way Mauck makes decisions. Although he thinks herbicides and pesticides still have a place on the family farm now, it’s not clear whether or not they’ll have a home on the operation in years to come.
“We have to find different ways to farm rather than just relying on herbicides,” says Mauck. “I’m thinking of ways I can farm without herbicides and farm without traditional methods.”
A recent interest for Mauck is taking full advantage of the manure his hogs produce. “I can capitalize on that free ammonium,” he says. “They make 4½ million gallons of manure a year.”
He’s injecting manure in with his wheat. Mauck is working to develop a piece of machinery that will allow him to inject 1,000 to 15,000 gallons of manure while he plants cover crops into a cornfield.
“This intensive cropping might not be for the grain farmer who doesn’t have access to manure,” he says.
“I have plenty of N to grow corn crops, but I have five times more phosphorous than I need and 1½ times more potash,” Mauck says. “I soil-test every year and do a lot of variable-rate liming.”
Get the Word Out
“He thinks about farming nonstop,” says Kortnee. “He is constantly trying to figure out if something works well and how to make it better.”
For anyone who follows Mauck on Twitter this isn’t news. Mauck regularly has his phone out broadcasting live to his followers showing what he’s doing on the farm and explaining why he’s doing it. Some videos show his efforts growing soybeans between rows of wheat, some are of him and his two boys checking crops, and some are of him writing out his plans for the growing season on a chalkboard in his farmhouse kitchen.
“He genuinely wants people to see his successes and failures, because he thinks his ideas could really shape the way other people farm,” says Kortnee.
Mauck loves to collaborate and has talked with a number of machinery companies about the many innovative ideas he has and what equipment will be needed to accomplish some of his goals.
“He’s constantly got a smile on his face and his mind is constantly going too,” says Heaton.
He couldn’t be less concerned about what others think. In fact, earlier in 2017, he filmed a video of himself talking about how you can’t let others get you down while sitting in a hot tub outside his home. You can’t worry about what others think in order to get where you’re going, he believes.
“In life and in farming, he’s really good at rolling with the punches,” says Kortnee. “He’s always trying to figure out his next move, so he adapts really well.”
Jason Mauck is featured in Successful Farming magazine's "10 Up & Comers" article running on pages 40 and 41 in the June/July issue.