Mark Fincham is the 2017 Soil Conservation Winners for Pratt County.

By Ashley Fitzsimmons
Special to the Tribune
    The 2017 Soil Conservation Winner for Pratt Co. is Heartland Family Farms. Mark Fincham is the managing partner and operator Heartland Family Farms. He works closely with his wife, Lisa and brother, Craig who are also part owners of the operation, along with his and Lisa’s two children, Cole and Jenna. Fincham is a 5th generation farmer and works to continue the family farms soil conversation legacy which started with his grandfather, Don Fincham. The Fincham family has been in the Pratt Co. area since the 1880s when Fincham’s great-great grandfather first purchased ground and began farming.

    Heartland Family Farms began their soil conservation journey when Fincham’s grandfather, Don, decided to build terraces to help reduce water erosion. In years to follow, Donald Fincham, Fincham’s father, implemented reduced tillage farming into their practices to reduce wind erosion, which is common for most Kansas’ farmers. The family then started to practice strip tillage to cut down soil erosion as well.

    Currently, Heartland Family Farms continues to apply many different soil conservation practices. They continue to use reduce tillage practices like strip-tillage and no-till. The strip-tillage helps with soil and water conservation and no-till is used in fields where wind erosion would likely occur. In 2004, the family built and began fuel and oil containment. Fincham has completed the farm’s certification for both On-Farm Security compliance and Cropland Environmental compliance since 2010.

    “It is all about being good stewards of the land and improving the soil for the next generation,” said Fincham.

    Fincham has worked to improve their irrigation practices in various ways. He has completed an irrigation engineering study on all irrigation systems and implemented improvements based on the study’s results. Working to improve water efficiency, Fincham has removed all end guns on his irrigation systems.

    “I believe water is a valuable resource and needs to be used responsibly,” said Fincham.    

    Along with better irrigation practices, Fincham has worked diligently on bettering his choices for different application procedures on his fields. Using multiple applications of nitrogen to enhance nutrient efficiency and the use of drift retardant nozzles as well as additives to prevent off-target applications. Fincham also utilizes tools like nitrate grid testing for variable rate applications and grid soil testing to better the application of nutrients.

    Soil health is important to Fincham. He has implemented the use of cover crops to work on maintaining the soil and improve its microbial activity. He has discontinued the use of anhydrous ammonia to insure better soil health. To manage soil health, Fincham has started to use the Haney Soil Test, a testing process to help assess soil health by using “green chemistry.” This includes water, soil microbial indicator and weak organic acid.

    Fincham and Heartland Family Farms work hard to insure the future of farming is bright and progressive. He believes the positive and efficient practices that are put into place now will continue to better their operation not only now but in the coming future.

    “The better we treat our land today, it can help us to be more profitable in the future,” said Fincham.