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The Legans operate approximately 1,000 acres of row crops, primarily in a corn/soybean rotation, planted in a no-till system.
The Legans have opened their farm to visitors by hosting field days, tours and workshops, including the Putnam County Conservation Expo. Both Mark and Phyllis take on active leadership roles in their community, at the state level and in national organizations.
Phyllis takes agriculture’s message to local students through Indiana Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom program. “I talk with students, ranging from preschool through high school, about agriculture,” she says. “The speeches I give usually have a natural resources bent, telling how we use manure nutrients to better the land. People mostly think of manure as a waste, but to us, it is a valuable product.”
Phyllis also works with Operation Main Street, a program from the National Pork Board. “I talk to a lot of classes about nutrition, and make presentations to some agriculture science classes,” she says. “I speak mostly on the nutrition of pork products, but this also gives me the opportunity to showcase our farm and tell how we take care of our nutrient management.”
In addition, she has chaired the Putnam County Soil and Water Conservation District Board. “It was a big learning curve for me when I first started,” Phyllis admits. “But I learned so much, and was able to understand how we can influence our natural resources and take better care of them. It has always been really important to me to be a part of making things better.”
Mark also has served agriculture in a number of ways. For 12 years, he represented agriculture on the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s water pollution control board. “That experience convinced me that, as farmers, we need to get serious about our nitrogen utilization, from an environmental standpoint,” he says. “Of course, it’s also important from an economic standpoint, since we write checks to purchase the nitrogen to grow corn.”
The Legans have been working to fine-tune their own nitrogen applications, experimenting with nitrogen stabilizers and using pre-sidedress and end-of-season stalk testing to help establish their N rates.
“Managing nitrogen is difficult, since weather plays such a key role,” Mark points out. “But we have to continue to learn. Conservation is not only important to the future of our farm, but also to the future of our food supply—and not only here in the United States, but on a worldwide basis.
“When we look at the amount of food that we need to grow in the next 50 years to satisfy population growth, we must have sustainable systems,” he continues. “That means not only keeping topsoil in place, but also soil health. We need to be improving the assets that we have on top of the ground as well as underneath the ground.”