Randy Spronk takes safeguarding the environment and protecting water quality very seriously on his family’s farm near Edgerton, Minnesota in rural Pipestone County. Randy has decades of data and information on his farm’s environmental footprint — overall water quality, how many gallons of manure his farm yielded, how many gallons have been applied to his fields, how his crops have utilized that manure and more.
After graduating from college, Randy Spronk bought the family farm in 1988 and partnered with his brothers. Spronk Brothers is their livestock farm, but they also have their own on-farm feed mill and harvest 2,600 acres of corn and soybeans to feed all of their own pigs.
“I’m committed to ensuring we do the right things to protect water quality and the environment.”
“I know that if I take care of the environment, it will take care of me,” says Randy.
Spronk Brothers’ farm on the Buffalo Ridge, which is sort of the “Continental Divide” between the Missouri and Mississippi River watersheds. It’s a critical area for water quality, and Spronk Brothers want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. “I’ve always felt that I’m a caretaker entrusted not just with the pigs, but the soil and water here. That’s my occupation, it’s what I do every day, and it’s what I was educated to do,” Randy says. “It’s important to me to utilize these resources — our soils and water — to produce food and make decisions that benefit both my family and society. We all coexist.”
Like many pig farmers, Randy knows the importance of utilizing the best technology and resources to care for pigs and the environment and that starts with the big barns themselves.
“Our barns are structurally engineered and designed to help protect water quality. The manure does not go anywhere unless I put it there,” Randy says.
When farmers apply manure to their fields, it is with the knowledge of the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content in the manure. Manure is a valuable, organic fertilizer farmers use to provide nutrients for their crops, build soil health, and protect water quality. Farmers value manure against commercial, synthetic crop fertilizers, and when they apply manure on their local fields, it means they don’t have to import something new into their watershed.
“We test the manure to know what it has. We test the fields to know what they need. We use technology to apply the right amounts in the right places, and it doesn’t run off, and it doesn’t build up, “Randy says. “It’s a testing and verification methodology that we have third parties confirm, so we can give confidence to the consumer that we are doing it right.”
Randy also knows how important it is to have proof of your commitment to protecting the environment. It is one reason he decided to become Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program certified. “I have a third-party verification conducted that shows the farm’s environmental impact. We have worked with the same agronomy consultant to conduct those verifications for 25 years, and through my entire farming career, I’ve always worked with a third-party to sample manure pits, conduct soil tests, and give recommendations on how to manage our manure so it’s best for our soils and water. Now we have 25 years of data on a spreadsheet showing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in our soils, and we use the latest agronomic rate information to produce our crops using our own manure.”
While the historic data helps Randy make decisions, he still sees the potential for more innovation in the future that will continue to improve how his farm works in the environment.
“We’re going to continue to innovate and find new ways to raise our pigs, utilize manure, and better crops, all while protecting the environment and water quality.”