Ausberger credits his father, Bob, with directing the family farm toward environmental stewardship. “We have been no-till since 1981, when Dad and my cousin started the idea,” he says. “I recall coming home from a high school vo-ag class and saying, ‘I think we need to look into this.’”

His father was already planning to use the technique in the upcoming growing season. “He was a step ahead of me, but it was nice that we were both thinking along the same lines,” Ausberger says. “We are now a strict no-till operation. In fact, it might be better described as ‘never-till.’  The only tillage we do is to smooth out the trenches from when we install tile lines or make tile repairs.”

The family takes seriously its commitment to stewardship of the land. Ausberger grows around 1,700 acres of corn and soybeans near Jefferson, Iowa, and he points out that there is only one stipulation in the contract for the land he rents from his father.

“Dad insists that I continue to be no-till,” Ausberger says. “The commitment to soil and water conservation is more than just lip service. We’re trying to protect the resources for future generations.”

Ausberger is officially recognized as a Certified Conservation Farmer, a title awarded through a new initiative from Iowa Conservation Connect, a consortium of conservation agencies. “I straddle the line between being an economist, a businessman and a conservationist,” he observes. “I have noticed—and my banker has noticed—that using conservation methods has resulted in a pretty good return on investment. That fits in perfectly with my family’s philosophy, a multigenerational philosophy, of conserving the soil and being good stewards of the land.”

His efforts now extend beyond simply conserving the soil—Ausberger now is looking for ways to restore the soil. “Agriculture’s so-called Brown Revolution is exciting to me,” he says. “I am still on a corn-soybean rotation, but in recent years I have added cover crops to help with soil and water quality as well as disease, weed and insect management. I believe that having healthy soil will result in better returns with less loss. And it will make modern agriculture more appealing to others who consider themselves stakeholders in the environment that we impact.”