By Mike Tanchevski
INDIANAPOLIS – The Red Gold Stewardship Award, presented to Red Gold tomato growers who value improving soil health and water quality in their operations, was announced by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) and Red Gold last month.
The 2023 award recognized Niese Ag LLC, of Pandora, Ohio, as the first-place recipient, and Myers Sod Farms LLC, of Seymour, Ind., as the second-place awardee.
“Red Gold is proud of being in a partnership with ISDA and celebrating 15 years of a formal program for all of our tomato growers to participate within,” said Curt Utterback, director of agriculture at Red Gold. “The growers are committed to continuing their good efforts with soil and water conservation practices. ”
ISDA Director Don Lamb said the award recognizes those agriculturalists committed to soil conservation and its role in supporting agriculture.
“Red Gold had 100 percent participation in the stewardship program this year,” ISDA Deputy Communications Director Haley Reiger said. “To qualify, each applicant fills out an application that covers specific questions about their operations and the conservation practices they have implemented. ”
Chuck Niese and his son Derek grow tomatoes on 270 acres and have supplied tomatoes to Red Gold since 2000. Myers Sod Farm grows tomatoes on 160 acres and has supplied Red Gold since 2009.
One way farmers practice soil conservation is by planting cover crops. Niese Ag inter-seeds cover crops in its corn and soybean fields. Myers Sod Farm works with cover crops, along with practicing reduced tillage and regular soil testing, in order to preserve farmland for the future.
Located in northeast Ohio, Niese Ag LLC, has implemented a multitude of conservation practices to promote soil health and water quality on their farm, such as inter-seeding cover crops in corn and soybeans, grass filter strip, and vegetative field borders. When asked what was important to Niese Ag LLC, Derek said, “trying to build and preserve the farmland for future generations.”
Niese Ag LLC farms nearly 1,700 acres. In addition, the enterprise produces corn, soybeans, organic cabbage, wheat, blackberries and strawberries.
Myers Sod Farms LLC is in south-central Indiana. They have implemented a variety of stewardship and conservation practices, such as reduced tillage, regular soil testing, and cover crops and living covers in 2022. “Practicing conservation is important on our farm. We feel that if we take care of the land, it will take care of us,” said Adam Myers, of Myers Sod Farm.
Successful tomato production is a demanding process. Planting, cultivating and harvesting is a time-consuming operation requiring constant attention.
“There’s a lot of work involved,” Chuck Niese said. “The planting is real slow, you go like one mile an hour or less and we get 20 acres planted a day. Then we spray them every week and we harvest one row at a time.”
Myers said, “It’s intense for a couple of weeks during planting and about a month during harvest. Then we’re spraying for pests about once a week the rest of the year.”
Niese Ag LLC received a $1,000 scholarship and the option to ship an extra truckload of tomatoes per day during harvest season. Myers Sod Farms LLC was awarded a $500 scholarship and the opportunity to ship an extra half truckload of tomatoes per day during harvest.