Leopold Conservation Award Program - South Dakota 2016

South Dakota 2016 Cronin Farms Gettysburg, SD Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

Photo Credit: USDA NRCS South Dakota

Cronin Farms was established in 1910, when Carl Cronin moved from Nebraska to South Dakota. Ever since the beginning, the farm has been a diverse mix of livestock and crops. Today the farm is managed by Monty and Mike Cronin, along with their agronomy manager Dan Forgey.

The Cronins and Forgey take a holistic approach to crop and livestock management. The farm was transitioned to no-till in 1993, and the fragile perennial pastures were transformed from season-long grazing to a rotational grazing system.

Forage and cover crops have been integrated into the diverse crop rotations and are either swath or bale grazed during the fall and winter. This improves nutrient cycling, soil health and biological activity. In the spring and summer, the cattle herd grazes grassland along the Missouri River breaks.

Cronin Farms LLC

Innovation has been critical to Cronin Farms' success. The most visible result to those passing by the farm is the health of the fields from rotation schemes and grazing systems. Less noticeable are the use of imagery, zone mapping and sampling, variable rate applications and integrated pest management techniques. With their livestock, the Cronins have adapted their genetic techniques to produce an animal better suited for a diet high in forage.

Part of Cronin Farms is adjacent to the Oahe Reservoir on the Missouri River, which attracts a large and diverse wildlife population. In the area between farmland and reservoir waterways, the Cronins planted perennial grasses and forbs. They also defer using nearly 40 acres of land used by ground nesting birds during critical nesting periods.

The Cronins are always willing to allow researchers, South Dakota State University Extension and USDA-ARS personnel to perform research on their land and share their techniques with others. Forgey has made presentations about the farm’s techniques throughout the U.S. The farm has also hosted agriculture leaders from across the world who want to learn about how they maintain outstanding soil health and plant performance.

"I was extremely fortunate to have a producer such as Cronin Farms and Dan Forgey located in my county," said Trevis Olson, a NRCS district conservationist. "They are an invaluable resource to have, well respected in the community, willing to give their time to promote conservation and educate any who will listen."

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