ELWOOD, Ind. — Mike Schulte, a farmer from Pandora, Ohio, is always eager to learn new and better techniques to grow his tomatoes – and he learns from other producers at the annual Red Gold Grower Field Day in Elwood, Ind. "We learn from other growers what works and what doesn’t," Schulte said of Schulte Produce, which grows corn, beans, wheat, tomatoes and other fresh vegetables on 1,100 acres. "We are trying new things next year, like different fertility schemes."
Surrounded by 50 of his peers and their families from Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, Schulte’s interest in improvement was rewarded last week when he won the Stewardship and Conservation Award from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, along with a $1,000 scholarship. Schulte grows 350 acres of tomatoes and 125 acres of Red Gold-contracted tomatoes, he said, but he plans to expand that production. "I’m trying to grow more into tomatoes because they are less labor intensive than other fresh vegetables," he added.
Schulte told Farm World a little about his conservation efforts on the family farm, which has been growing for Red Gold since 2001. He uses a four-year crop rotation; no-till on beans and wheat; and plants cover crops behind tomatoes, wheat and most of his vegetables. He grows greenhouse tomatoes, fruits and vegetables for a supplier.
"My dad used cover crops 20 years ago before it was cool," said Schulte, who was excited and surprised to be recognized. He still farms with his dad, Tom, and his brother, Todd Schulte.
He thinks the no-till approach also improves the soil.
"It’s much better till in the ground. The soil is loose, richer, and drains better," Schulte said.
Second place went to Nate Gage, of McKillip Farms, a 3,600-acre farm in Wabash County. He plants 300 acres of Red Gold-contracted tomatoes.
This was Gage’s second time earning second place, and he promised to try again for the top spot next year. Gage earned a $500 scholarship for his efforts.