In 1962, Alexander Young’s grandfather became one of the first American farmers – and the first in Kentucky – to try out a new process called no-tillage farming. Now, almost 60 years later, Young and his father, John, are continuing the environmentally-sustainable practice on their 4,500-acre farm in Christian County, Ky., and seeing the rewards.
“It’s amazing to see the family legacy of stewardship and responsible production of food,” says Young, the 6th generation to tend the land that his family started farming in the 1830s. “We are not just maintaining things for a future generation, but we’re actually improving our farm and our land for future generations.”
The USDA estimates it takes about 500 years to produce one inch of topsoil, Young says. By not tilling the land where they grow corn, wheat and double-crop soybeans, the Youngs are shortening that time frame. They’re also keeping the carbon generated by plants inside the soil, which is better for the complex ecosystem that resides there.
“All of life depends on the top six inches of the soil,” Young says. “No till farming is great at sequestering carbon. You’re taking care of the crop and you’re affecting the soil. But the fact that it touches the entire ecosystem is amazing to me. It’s an entire chain that leads back to … the top six inches of earth.”
This positive effect is what the Youngs intended when they started following no-till practices generations ago.
“I choose to farm every day because I’m making a difference for the world,” Young says. “I’m helping humanity flourish by producing food in a responsible way.”