Illinois farmer, Stan Schutte is the fourth winner of this annual award.
This year's 17th annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference was the largest ever, with more than 2,200 people in attendance.
To what does the Upper Midwest farmer of the year attribute such growth?
"One is that organics is growing, and that's reflected in our membership," Schutte
...From left to right: MOSES Executive Director Faye Jones; Stan Schutte; George Bird, board member of The Rodale Institute; and MOSES board member and 2003 Organic Farmer of the Year Award winner Linda Halley.
believes the best defense against the pests and diseases that plague farmers is to grow plant varieties and breed animals that are naturally resistant to these problems.This he
determines through on-farm research and variety trials on his
Triple "S" Farms in Stewardson, Illinois, a 200-acre diversified organic operation that produces dozens of varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, chickens, turkeys, hogs and cattle, organic dent corn, sweet corn, popcorn, soybeans and hard red wheat.
Starting with beef cattle, followed by sheep, hogs, chickens and ducks, Schutte
animals through his
..."I want to share this award with my son, who is helping us keep our farm in the family, and with all of those who work on our farm as well," Schutte said in accepting the award and replica $500 check presented by Rodale Institute board member George Bird, PhD (a professor in the department of entomology at Michigan State University).
, who has farmed his
whole life, went organic in 1997 in response to the hog market crash.He
says the switch kept him in business.Schutte
not only preserved his
own livelihood; at peak season he
now employs six to eight workers.
Innovative marketing is another of Schutte's strong suits.He sells direct to consumers at several farmers markets and has created the Triple "S" Farms Buying Club.
For a modest deposit and monthly subscription price, members receive a family-, couple-, or single-sized box of his
meat and poultry products.Members also receive a $10 credit for referring new customers.Schutte
hosts an annual Customer Appreciation Day, a fall festival with tours and farm-fresh foods.He
has plans for a cabin next to his
pond and prairie plantings, allowing customers the opportunity for a rustic country getaway.
Cow sharing: Schutte's
working out the details of a coopeative cow share program, one of many projects he's
currently got is hand into. Schutte
is currently developing a "cow shares" plan which will allow interested customers to be cooperative owners of a dairy cow that that Schutte
will milk and care for.The dividends for owning a share of Bessie?Frozen organic milk.Not to rest on his
has been working with University of Illinois Extension
to determine the feasibility of a multi-species, value-added processing plant.
Water has been an especially important indicator of big changes in Schutte's
farm resources.The small pond in his
back field is no longer muddied by the erosion of productive topsoil.This past summer's drought brought the pond's water to very low levels, but Schutte
says it is when water is a limiting factor that organic farming really shines.The increase in his
soil organic matter under organic practices has vastly increased the water-retaining capacity of his
attributes much of this improvement to his
also has planted buffer strips and fallow land to native prairie and has seen an explosion in the amount of wildlife on his
farm, particularly quail and pheasant.Schutte
is first to admit that he
is shy about public speaking.Nonetheless, he has become an educator in many different forums.He
speaks very matter-of-factly about what he
does and why.Having been a conventional farmer himself, he understands their skepticism, allowing him to more appropriately address their concerns.He has given presentations to Extension educators, producers, agriculture students, the now-defunct Southern Illinois Sustainable Agriculture group (Schutte was an active member), and Kiwanis Club at a variety of venues.
takes the time to educate consumers about how his
products were grown and processed, as well as about what it means to be certified organic.He
is also quite willing to give good marketing advice to novice farmers' market vendors who appear to be struggling.Some have really benefited from his
help and now have their own successful operations.Stan serves as an inspiration and resource for aspiring organic farmers.He
has become heavily involved in the Central Illinois Farm Beginnings program, which provides classes and internship opportunities to people who wish to become sustainable farmers.Schutte is president of the Illinois chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association.
This year, the chapter was honored by the global parent organization for 44-percent growth, the biggest membership jump of any chapter in a single year.
Part of his
own success, he
says, has been "leading by example," and now that one of his
own children has taken a shine to organic farming, Schutte
couldn't be happier.Shutte's 19-year-old son Ryan-the youngest of five children with wife, Karen-has begun his own organic farming ventures at the home farm while obtaining his college degree.
With Ryan involved, Schutte
says, "farming has become fun again."
"Nothing is truly sustainable if you can't pass it on," says Schutte
, who is also concerned with current challenges and trends related to farm succession.