Have you ever wondered how Texas farmers grow food for our great state? Chances are if you live in a metropolitan area, opportunities are limited to talk to a farmer. Fellow Texan Lindsay Kimbrell can relate.

Having grown up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Lindsay said she did not know much about agriculture…until she married a farmer. “I did not grow up farming – I had no idea what a farmer did. As far as I knew, farmers just plowed the fields and drove in the road in the way, all the classic things everybody thinks,” she said. “I married a farmer 17 years ago, and I have learned that there are a whole lot of things farmers do that I had no idea about.”

Courtesy of Water Grows

Her husband Todd is a fifth-generation farmer and has been involved in agriculture his whole life. One of things Lindsay quickly discovered is just how important conservation is to farmers. Today, Todd, Lindsay, and their two kids grow corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans, and sunflowers using resource-conscious methods on their family farm located about an hour south of Dallas.

The Kimbrells know how important it is to be good stewards and protect the quality of water both on and off their farm. Todd said the support of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is one of the reasons they have been successful in their water conservation efforts. “NRCS is huge – we use it so much,” Todd explained. “If we have runoff issues, our first move is to go to NRCS and they have cost share programs. They design it, we build it, and they cost share it with us. It’s a good program for us to keep our resources intact, help with water runoff and improve our bottom line to stay sustainable.”

Courtesy of Water Grows

He explained that NRCS has provided technical assistance to build terraces on their land. Terraces are earthen structures, such as embankments, channels or ridges, constructed across a sloping field to help reduce erosion, trap sediment and manage water runoff. “The terraces will drain out into our waterway, and we have the cover there to slow down the drainage so that it doesn’t just cut through and take everything with it – it slows it down and filters everything before it gets down to the creek,” Lindsay explained.

Not only do the combination of terraces and a cover, or crop residue left over after harvest, protect the water that leaves their farm, it also helps hold moisture in their fields. The Kimbrells said this is crucial on their dryland farm because they depend solely on rainfall. More water in their soil equals more moisture to encourage healthy crop growth.

Another way the Kimbrells are working to protect water quality is through nutrient management. “We don’t like to see nutrients run off. I mean, it’s not good for our bottom line for sure, but it’s also not good for the environment, and we don’t want to be bad environmental stewards,” he said.

Courtesy of Water Grows

To meet the nutrient demands of their crops, Todd explained they started using manure on their farm nearly 20 years ago after a soil test revealed its effectiveness. “From my perspective, it’s a great thing for soil health. The balance of nutrients you get and what it does for the soil long-term has just completely changed the way we use fertilizer,” he said.

Todd said instead of blanket-applying nutrients onto their fields, they take a closer look at the nutrients in the soil prior to establishing a fertility plan for the upcoming year. “We soil test every acre, and then we take that data and look at removal rates of the prior crop,” he explained. “It’s just honestly simple math. What did it remove? Where do our levels need to be to replace what we removed?”

This data equips the Kimbrells to apply manure to their fields precisely without overapplying, which reduces the chances of nutrients running off into water sources downstream.

Courtesy of Water Grows

Todd and Lindsay agree that it’s not only important for their operation to be sustainable for the environment, but also so they can leave it a better place for their kids. “I think [farming] is a great way to spend time with your family, and also to pass it down to the next generation. I’m a big believer in that and being a good steward of the land and passing it on is maybe the best part.”

Discover more about how Texas farmers are protecting water at WaterGrows.org.