In February 2018 we welcomed Matt Mullins to the Cheney Lake Watershed Citizens Management Committee. Matt, his wife, Becky, and their sons, Denton (7) and Chase (5), farm in the Yoder and Partridge areas.
Matt says they went to no-till 11 years ago because they wanted to keep their soil in place on their fields. Becky noted that they added cover crops 5 years ago because they wanted to keep the soil covered and have a living root in the soil to further stabilize their soil. Because of their desire for soil cover, they began planting the cover crop in the field right behind the combine.
Much of their land is irrigated which allows them to grow forage for their cow-calf operation. The cattle graze crop residues and cover crops on all of their irrigated acres. This helps cycle the nutrients back into the soil more rapidly and it is healthier for the cattle.
You don’t have visit with Matt & Becky for long before you discover they have a strong soil stewardship ethic. Becky says they want to produce crops while at the same time improving the soil health. The Mullins understand that a healthy soil can lead to a healthy bottom line.
Crops and kids aren’t the only things Matt and Becky raise. They have pasture raised chickens and turkeys housed in Joel Salatin “Chicken Tractor”-style coops. The coops are bottomless houses that are moved daily through fields or pasture.
Becky housed the chickens in a barn this winter while they repaired the coops. Now she laments that their barn is a mess, instead of the chickens depositing the manure out in the field. Becky and Matt can always see the strip where the chickens were moved in the field due to the darker green color of the plants and the increased growth. So in a sense, we could say the “Chicken Tractor” is more of a manure spreader than a chicken coop. In addition to the benefit of spreading manure, the system gives their poultry a daily diet of fresh greens, also known as “chicken salad”.
As a former teacher, Becky wants to educate the younger generation about healthy soil. She has been contracting with the Cheney Lake Watershed to teach water quality and soil health lessons to 5th grade students at three schools in the watershed. So far she has done one session on runoff and infiltration.
Becky has used the Watershed’s table top runoff model to demonstrate the difference between conventionally tilled soil, no-till soil with crop residue and no-till soil with living plants. Her next lesson will focus on the benefit of earthworms to soil health. Becky says her goal is to help children think differently about soil.
Family values are important to Matt and Becky and they want to teach their boys good soil stewardship and animal husbandry while they work alongside them on the farm. Matt and Becky have a strong desire to have healthy soil, healthy animals and healthy kids. They are great leaders for soil health practices and water quality in our Watershed. We look forward to their influence in the watershed in the years to come.