Farmer standing next to John Deere Tractor

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Member spotlight: Steve McGrew, Emerson

July 6, 2023 | Kriss Nelson

Taking part in on-farm trials, being a recognized conservationist and using data, Steve McGrew takes full advantage of his Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) membership.

“The Iowa Soybean Association looks out for our interests,” McGrew says. “They always do a good job of being at the forefront of production and keeping members updated with policy matters. I’m glad to be an ISA member; it’s a good organization.”

McGrew, a fourth-generation farmer, works alongside his three brothers and a nephew on their farm near Emerson in Mills County.Farming looking into wagon in shed

Their no-till soybean and corn rotation includes cover crops and other conservation methods to preserve their family’s legacy in farming.

“You always feel a close tie to the land, and that’s why most farmers try to take care of it,” he says. “We take care of our land with conservation measures, such as cover crops and terraces. You see it every day. It’s more than just an asset.”

On-farm field trials

Working with ISA’s Research Center for Farming Innovation (RCFI) agronomists, McGrew has participated in a variety of on-farm trials, including nitrogen and cover crop studies.

“Trials confirm what you read,” says McGrew.

He and his family use their variable rate technology to apply fertilizer and ensure they are farming economically and environmentally.

Cover crop trials have included researching different modes of application. They have tried drilling, aerial seeding and broadcasting.

Through these trials, McGrew says they have pinpointed which method works best for their farming operation.

“The drill is always better, but broadcasting the cover crop seed fits us best for time,” he adds.

Besides applying what he’s learned by participating in on-farm trials, McGrew also takes advantage of ISA’s online tools.

“The field trial data on the Iowa Soybean Association’s website is a hidden secret,” he says. “There is a lot of good information there. It’s all very educational.”

Recognized conservationist

McGrew was recognized as a member of ISA’s Iowa Front Forty inaugural class in 2021. Front 40 recognizes farmers and others who utilize and promote innovative conservation methods. These farmers also inspire further action in improving water and soil quality while illustrating how public funding can dramatically increase the pace and scope of conservation activities in Iowa.

McGrew says they have signed up to sell carbon credits through Indigo Ag and have been a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources of Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program. They also have filter and buffer strips enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.

“The future of farming could mean more programs like those,” says McGrew. “Society has taken more of an interest in how we farm.”