As a fourth generation farmer, but the first to solely focus entirely on managing the family’s 11,000-acre operation near Herndon, Ky., Brandon Hunt appreciates how innovation is born out of experimentation.
The grandson of H&R Agri-Power president Wayne Hunt, and oldest son of the dealership’s vice president Steve Hunt, Brandon has been brought up in an environment where calculated risk-taking and a learn-by-doing mentality are benchmarks of success.
After graduating from college, Hunt permanently returned to the family farm — formed in the 1950s — which raises primarily corn, soybeans and wheat, along with smaller amounts of tobacco and hemp. Conventional tillage practices covered most of the farm for years, but no-till, and more recently strip-till have become systematic changes Hunt implemented.
“I picked up on strip-till about 5 years ago from one of the dealership’s customers around Hopkinsville, Ky. It piqued my interest and we collaborate and talk through the year,” Hunt says. “The dealership has gained a few new customers from us strip-tilling during the last couple of years just by talking and collaborating with them.”
The direct intersection between Hunt Farms and H&R Agri-Power is sometimes subtle by design, but Hunt acknowledges the positive influence that testing equipment for the dealership and conducting cropping trials on the family farm’s 150-acre test plot have had on customers.
Hunt recently completed a 3-year study on 125 acres comparing banded fertilizer application vs. spreading to gain more understanding on nutrient efficiencies of banding 8 inches deep at different rates vs. surface application. They ran a 16-row Orthman 1tRIPr strip-till rig for the banded application and took a buggy for the broadcast to mimic a 40-foot pattern of a spreader.
“The family used to own a fertilizer company, and my granddad started it from scratch back in the ‘70s. So we’ve always had an agronomic approach to whatever we do,” Hunt says. “When we got out of the fertilizer business to concentrate solely on the equipment dealership, we tried to maintain that agronomic approach and that certainly carries over to the farm operation.”
Hunt is currently conducting trials with cover crops, which have become an increasingly important part of the operation. Seeding cereal rye with a Case IH 500T drill in mid-October into November after harvesting double-cropped soybeans, Hunt then likes to strip-till ahead of planting corn with their 16-row Case IH 2150, Case IH 2140 and Kinze 3660 planters.
“Sometimes, our cover crop is not as good as I want it to be behind the double-cropped soybeans, just because we’re so late getting into the field. If it gets cold early, the cover crop doesn’t have a whole lot of time to get up and thrive,” he says. “So whenever I plant cover crops for the strip-till, we’re using a steerable hitch with our 40-foot seeder where I’ll plant two 7½-inch rows in a 30 foot guess row.
“If we’ve got two 30 inch rows of corn, I’ve got two 7½-inch rows of cover just in the middle, not where my row’s going to be. That way, whenever we come back and strip, we’re not just ripping cover crop up and wasting it.”
Hunt credits his innovative nature to his bloodline and values to opportunity to be an ambassador of learning to other farmers in the area, who share his curiosity.
“My dad and my granddad have always been very forward, progressive thinkers, focused on trying to find the best solutions for customers,” Hunt says. “It’s a trait I draw on whenever I can sit down with some of the dealership’s customers, and they’re wanting to better their operation.
“We’ve got some really progressive farmers who we can tell, ‘Look, this is what we’ve been working on. Here’s what we found,’ My hope is we can provide them with a good foundation to consider making changes if it benefits their business.”