Fourth-generation Alabama farmer Wendy Yeager grows multiple crops on her 445-hectare family farm near Orrville, from soybeans to cotton. She describes herself as a front-line conservationist for whom sustainability is a way of life. It is simply part of how she runs her operation as she, like many American farmers, works hard to protect the land for future generations. Read more about what sustainability means to Wendy.
I grew up on a farm in south Alabama and left to pursue what I thought was my dream of becoming a veterinarian. But fate and faith brought me back to farming. Today, my husband and I, with our two daughters, raise soybeans, cotton, peanuts, grain sorghum, and wheat on 445 hectares (1,100 acres) near Orrville, Alabama.
Farmers are front-line conservationists. We commit to the environmental stewardship of our natural resources, which allows us to support food security by delivering high-quality protein to the world’s growing population.
Sustainability has become quite a buzzword, but sustainability is a mindset we live and act on every day. It’s ingrained into everything we do to ensure our farm’s legacy for future generations.
On Bell Place Farm, we use a production method called conservation tillage. This means we leave the previous year’s plant residue on the field and plant the new crop directly into it without tilling the soil. This increases soil health, preserves moisture, prevents erosion, and reduces our farm’s environmental footprint by making fewer trips on the tractor across our fields.
We haul our soybeans to a river terminal and crushing facility where they can be exported as whole beans or processed into thousands of different products, including animal feed for chickens and pigs or different renewable products such as biodiesel, candles, artificial turf, asphalt, and even Skechers shoes and Goodyear tires.
Alabama soybean farmers dedicate themselves to improve the environment. We do this by investing in new technology, research and processes every growing season aimed at conserving more land, water, energy and other natural resources. In fact, sustainability efforts by U.S. soybean growers across the country have improved dramatically over the last 40 years.
Between 1980 and 2020, soybean production grew by 130% using the same amount of land. While we’ve increased production, we’ve also increased efficiency. Our land-use efficiency has increased by 48% and our efficient use of irrigation water has improved by 60% Today, we grow more with less.
These conservation practices paired with enhanced productivity help us harvest a vital crop that goes on to meet consumer needs across the world.
Soybean farmers in our state provide a growing source of renewable, cleaner energy used in trucks, heavy machinery and equipment, and jet fuel. These types of advances in biodiesel, fostered by farmers through their soy checkoff investment funds, have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 86% compared with petroleum diesel.
As society demands sustainably produced foods and consumer products, Alabama soybean farmers deliver a versatile ingredient to create sustainable products. If there is a perfect bean, it’s the soybean. And it’s being grown by U.S. family farms across 30 states.