The Democrat who’s running to be Iowa’s next ag secretary says if he’s elected, he’ll promote new farming methods that “rebuild” the state’s top soil. Francis Thicke operates a 450 acre farm near Fairfield and manages a herd of 80 dairy cows.
“Since we started farming in Iowa, we’ve lost about half our top soil to erosion and we’ve lost half of that black carbon organic matter to oxidation from crop production, so you might say we’ve depleted our ecological capital by our farming methods,” Thicke says. “But we can farm in ways that will rebuild our soils and that are environmentally and ecologically sound.”
Thicke has planted 200 acres of his farm with grass and clover, for his cattle to graze. He’s split each of those into small “paddocks” and most are just two or three acres. “I have 60 paddocks and so after each milking twice a day the cows go to a new pasture and they move around much like the bison did on the prairie and so now I’m rebuilding my soils,” Thicke says. “The soils when I moved to that farm about 15 years ago, in some places all the top soil was gone and deep gullies were there, so now we’re rebuilding it.”
Thicke and his wife run an organic dairy, processing milk, yogurt and cheese on their farm near Fairfield and selling it under the “Radiance Dairy” brand. Thicke is the Democrat challenging Republican Bill Northey, Iowa’s current ag secretary, on November’s ballot.