Bigger isn’t always better, and success doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Kenton Javorsky, a grain farmer from western Oklahoma, lives this philosophy every day.
“Success is a relative term, and I don’t ever want to think I’ve figured it out,” he says. “Instead of getting bigger any more, I’m working to do better with the land I have.” Kenton started with 400 acres 20 years ago; with the help of his wife and now his children, today he raises wheat, canola and milo (sorghum) on his 3,400 acre farm. He also has a herd of 35 cow/calf pairs, up from the seven head he started with, though down from the several hundred he had a few years ago before the widespread drought forced him to reduce his herd.
One strategy he’s using to improve his operation long-term is planting cover crops to improve soil health, this year planting 700 acres of turnips and radishes that won’t ever be harvested for food. Instead, they’ll become part of the soil, increasing its bioactivity, adding nutrients and breaking up the hard pan ground. “We’re learning that feeding the soil improves the health of the crops,” he says. With a thought for the anticipated increase in global demand for food, he says, “The whole idea is to do what we can to raise more bushels of grain on every acre we have, and do it more efficiently and with less water so we conserve our resources.”
This is the first time Kenton has planted this many acres of cover crops, and the first time for turnips and radishes. “If I read something that’s working, I want to try it,” Kenton says. “Farming is like continuous learning.”
Kenton has also learned through his position on the Board of Directors of Western Oklahoma Farm Credit, where he’s been a customer-owner for 19 years. First appointed in 2009 and elected multiple times since, he’s helped govern the financial institution while also learning ways to improve his farming operation. “The other directors are sharp and understand agriculture and credit,” he says. “It’s been very beneficial to learn how things operate in a successful business and to take new ideas home to my own operation.”
While Kenton hesitates to define success, he has no trouble explaining why he loves to farm. “There’s something about planting a seed and watching it develop, or seeing a baby calf being born,” he says. “Ag just gets in your blood. It’s hard to describe, but there’s not another job like it.”