Tim Bardole farms near Rippey, Iowa and serves as a director for the United Soybean Board (USB) and the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). He grows soybeans and corn and raises hogs with his father, brother, and son. We recently sat down with Tim to follow up on his recent conversation with the Wall Street Journal.
Q: You were just featured in a Wall Street Journal story about the record number of acres that U.S. farmers are expected to plant this year. How does it feel to be global news?
A: Well, the bad thing is that the main reason they talked to me was because we lost over half our crop in last year’s derecho [a summer windstorm with hurricane force winds]. But the news about increased soybean acres is excellent. We are hoping that growing this high a percentage of our acres to soybeans this year will be financially feasible.
Q: As you mention in the WSJ article, you will be planting more soybeans than usual this year. You call this choice “both economic and practical” for you. What will it mean for customers of U.S. Soy?
A: Even though the derecho devastated about one-third of Iowa’s crops, the U.S. still exported a lot of beans. With more soybean acres planted this year, that will increase the supply of U.S. Soy, which in my opinion, is the best soy grown in the world, even more. Increasing acres means an increased supply, and our buyers will likely be able to buy more soy at better prices. The job of the U.S. soybean farmer is to ensure a plentiful supply for our customers.
Q: The pandemic has highlighted the importance of U.S. farmers and your ability to continue to provide a reliable supply of agricultural products, to customers around the world. In fact, in a Gallup poll last September, the U.S. farming and agriculture industry ranked No. 1 with a 69% positive rating. Do these poll results provide any validation to you or is this something you’ve always known?
A: You don’t think much about a doctor until you’re sick or about a mechanic until your car breaks down. Especially here in the United States, most of the population had never seen depleted shelves in grocery stores or ever had to think much about where their food came from. The U.S. agriculture industry was deemed critical infrastructure during last spring’s stay-at-home orders. For farmers, we can’t take time off when things have to get done. What we do today relates to tomorrow and to next week and the week after that. If we decide to take time off during planting and plant a little later than usual, if the weather doesn’t cooperate, that can significantly change our yields or quality. It did feel good that people noticed that farmers didn’t slow down. In fact, the ag industry stepped up to keep food channels plentiful. This is not an easy job – you have to take it seriously.
Q: Farming is obviously in your blood. Can you tell us a little bit about your family’s history in farming?
A: In 1901, my great-great-grandfather came to Iowa. He had been a farmer in Pennsylvania and was sick of dealing with all the rocks there and had heard about the deep soil here. I farm with my dad Roy, who is a fourth-generation farmer; my brother Pete, who is fifth generation like me; and my son Schyler, who is the sixth generation. I live on the home place, a Century Farm, which means it’s been in our family for at least 100 years and has been recognized by the state of Iowa. My dad and mom live on her family’s Century Farm, and my son lives on his wife’s family’s Century Farm. And I know that our farming roots go back even further. In a book, I saw a mention of a Paul Bardole who lived in the 1700s and farmed all his life. And we know that our first family member (a Hawley on my grandma’s side) came to North America in 1623 and was a farmer.
Q: Leadership is another aspect about your family that stands out. Why is it important for you to serve in leadership roles on behalf of U.S. farmers?
A: I grew up on a farm and always farmed with my dad, who served on both state and national soybean boards. One time, my dad won an award, and, in his speech, he explained why he served. He said that when he was in college, he had a professor who told the class that the world is run by those who show up. He said if you don’t do anything to change your circumstances, you can’t complain. You have to be active and try to make a difference, try to make things better. My brother Pete, who is a county supervisor, and I were both raised with the notion that you don’t just sit back.
Q: Sustainability has become increasingly important to customers of U.S. Soy. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the sustainability methods you practice on your farm?
A: We feel a great responsibility to the soil and the land. This didn’t start with us – this started with earlier generations. What was done 100 years ago, however, was different from how we farm today. We have been practicing no-till for 30 years now. With full tillage, you lose soil every year to wind and rain erosion, but no-till protects and builds the soil so that you have very little water erosion and it completely eliminates wind erosion. We’ve also used cover crops for 7 years, which helps to hold available nutrients in the soil. This helps us to apply less fertilizer and nitrogen and gives the current crop what it needs, nutrient-wise. It’s very important to us to make sure this land is productive for generations to come. I have two grandsons, ages 1 and 3, and I would be very happy if they can someday farm. I want to leave the land in better shape than I received it. When you improve your soils, you improve your sustainability.
Q: What are some other things that you wish people understood about U.S. soybean farmers and U.S. Soy?
A: U.S. soy production is made up of tens of thousands of farm families. Every operation is unique; each grower knows how to take care of his or her own soil. Farmers feed our families here in the U.S., but we also produce an abundant supply that’s used around the world. Soybeans are a marvelous plant. Not only do they provide protein and energy for feed, food, and oil, but they’re also used in a bunch of products like tires, tennis shoes, and asphalt. There’s no other plant in the world that I’m aware of with the ability to affect our lives in so many ways. I am proud to be a U.S. soy farmer.