Local tomato grower recognized by Red Gold

A local farmer has been recognized for being an exceptional grower and steward of the land.

Earlier this month, Myers Sod Farm LLC of Cortland received second place for the 2023 Red Gold Stewardship award by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and Red Gold.

The award is presented to Red Gold tomato growers who value improving soil health and water quality in their operations.

The presentation, now in its 15th year, is a partnership between Red Gold and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

Curt Utterback, director of agriculture at Red Gold, said they are proud to be in a partnership with ISDA and celebrating 15 years of a formal program for all of their tomato growers to participate within.

“The growers are committed in continuing their good efforts with soil and water conservation practices,” he said. “They are appreciative to be part of an industry providing nutrient food for an ever-growing population, and they want to ensure that their future family generations will have the same opportunity of producing the freshest, best-tasting tomatoes.”

This year’s first-place winner is Niese Ag LLC of Pandora, Ohio. Located in northeast Ohio, Derek Niese has put a strong emphasis on not only growing excellent crops but also on the conservation of the land they farm.

On their family farm, they grow tomatoes, corn, soybeans, wheat, blackberries and strawberries. They also grow organic corn, soybeans and cabbage. The Nieses have implemented a multitude of conservation practices to promote soil health and water quality on their farm, such as interseeding cover crops in corn and soybeans, grass filter strip and vegetative field borders.

When asked what was important to Niese Ag LLC, Niese said, “Trying to build and preserve the farmland for future generations.”

In addition to tomatoes, Myers Sod Farm grows sod, corn, soybeans and wheat. On each of its farms, they have implemented a variety of stewardship and conservation practices, such as reduced tillage, regular soil testing and cover crops and living covers, in 2022.

“Practicing conservation is important on our farm,” said Adam Myers of Myers Sod Farm. “We feel that if we take care of the land, it will take care of us.”

The Midwest is leading the pack in soil conservation efforts. Specifically in the Hoosier State, farmers utilize a variety of soil conservation practices and planted more than 1.6 million acres of cover crops in 2022.

ISDA Director Don Lam said the Red Gold Stewardship award recognizes those agriculturalists committed to soil conservation and its role in supporting agriculture, specifically in the Midwest.

“Congratulations to the 2023 winners. It is well-deserved,” Lamb said.

As the top winner, Niese Ag LLC received a $1,000 scholarship and the option to ship an extra truckload of tomatoes per day during harvest season. Myers Sod Farm LLC was awarded a $500 scholarship and the opportunity to ship an extra half-truckload of tomatoes per day during harvest.