MN farmer likens diversification to playing chess instead of checkers

A southeast Minnesota farmer likens diversification on his farm to board games.

Tom Cotter is transitioning organic, grows hemp, incorporates strip and no-till practices, uses cover crops, and raises beef cattle on about 1,000 acres near Austin.

“It’s like playing checkers compared to chess. Conventional ways (like) checkers is just one or two basic moves. I’m playing chess now and thinking about next year, and the year after, and what that field is going to be in three years.”

In addition to hemp, Cotter rotates corn, soybeans, and canning crops like sweet corn and peas.

“I’m never set in stone. I always ask people about their rotation and they’re on three, four, five-year rotations. And I’m all over the place. Lots of times I adjust right up to the last second.”

Cotter tells Brownfield soil health drives most of his cropping decisions, and says it’s a big reason why he’s transitioning organic.

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