Sixth-generation Michigan farmer Doug Darling
photo credit: AFBF
Since Doug Darling’s ancestors relocated to Michigan from Massachusetts and started farming in 1833, it’s always been about the next generation. Doug’s father, fifth-generation farmer Elgin Darling, looked even further ahead, according to Dayton, Doug’s son.
“My grandpa always was saying that everything he did across his life, he was doing for me,” Dayton said. And now, everything that Doug is doing, he’s doing for Dayton’s son, who will be the eighth generation on the farm.
Farming in the Lake Erie watershed, the Darlings prioritize conservation practices that maintain and improve water quality. Many of those practices, like conservation tillage and cover crops, help keep nutrients – plant food – on the farm, where they belong, and out of the water.
“We’ve got over 49 acres of filter strips on our farm … This filter strip captures any of the nutrients that might migrate off my corn field and possibly get into where we periodically get flooding because of the development upstream,” Doug explained.
Just as they focus on the farming generations to come, the Darlings are also working toward the next crop. For example, after a recent wheat harvest, the Darlings planted a cover crop mix of oats, radishes and soybeans, which will capture the nutrients left in the soil and retain it for the next year’s corn crop.
Reflecting on the farm’s nearly 200-year history, Dayton noted there aren’t too many businesses with longevity like that.
“There’s your definition of sustainability,” Doug said.