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-livestock and crop enterprise. 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, improving 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 the success at Cronin Farms. The most visible result to those passing by the farm is the the health of the fields as a result of the rotation schemes and grazing systems. However, the less perceptible changes include the use of imagery, zone mapping and sampling, variable rate applications and integrated pest management techniques. On the livestock side, the Cronins have adapted their genetic techniques to help produce an animal better suited for a diet high in forage.

A sizable portion of Cronin Farms is adjacent to the Oahe Reservoir on the Missouri River, attracting a large and diverse wildlife population to the property. 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 property and share their techniques with others. Forgey has made presentations about the farm’s techniques throughout South Dakota and beyond the U.S. The farm has also hosted agriculture leaders from across the world who want to learn about how the Cronins and Forgey maintain their 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, District Conservationist at NRCS. “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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