Pete loves wide open spaces, organic farming and giving visitors a chance to connect with the land. His farm, about an hour north of the Twin Cities, features two spectacular sunflower fields available for viewing and photographs. Visitors can also tour the farm, buy fresh vegetables, eggs and grass-fed beef.
Gaining popularity through social media and an article about his “Hidden Gem” in Minnesota, Pete’s sunflower fields are planted 10 days apart to extend the peak viewing experience. “We started with around 400 visitors a few years ago, then after posting on social media, we had up to a thousand people come through. And after that article came out, we had around 5,000 people visit our sunflower fields this season,” said Pete.
Pete has been phasing out of the organic vegetables he was growing as part of a CSA due to time and labor demands as well as the constant challenges of nature. Pete explains, “There was always stress trying to get the boxes ready for CSA pick up – especially when you have to deal with last-minute problems like racoons getting into the sweet corn and deer eating the Swiss chard down to the roots!”
A long-time believer in the power of building living soils, when Pete was introduced to the concept of EarthScout™, he immediately knew what he wanted to measure – improvements in soil health plus the yield and quality of his crops. “I never have been a big commercial fertilizer user. With practices like cover crops, minimal tillage and conservation agriculture, the soil should be able to re-generate itself. And with EarthScout, I have a way to keep track of that,” said Pete.
With EarthScout units now in each of his large sunflower fields, he’s able to keep an eye on factors like soil temperature, moisture levels and growing degree units. “Sunflower doesn’t like wet feet. And even though we had a late planting and cooler, wet weather, we ended up with a great sunflower crop this year,” comments Pete. Field data is fed to his smartphone app for easy, real-time viewing. “My boy and I really like the convenience of being able to see the data on our phones anytime we want, said Pete.
As Pete and his son get more comfortable using the EarthScout probes and data, they would like to see how soil health can improve over time. “Ideally, I can hone-in on metrics that show me improved ROI per acre,” said Pete, “knowing I own the data is important to me and I look forward to building a data history with benchmarks to help me keep improving how I farm.”