Brent Hopkins couldn’t get enough of his Grandpa Lambert Maca’s farm as a child. Once he joined Maca’s side during visits while his sisters were with his Grandma Angie baking and gardening, Hopkins never strayed from his dreams to be a farmer someday.
Today, his Grandpa has passed on, but Hopkins has continued to carry on M&H Grand View Farms – a partnership he formed with Maca when he was still in college near Rogers, Neb. “I grew up in town. But we spent a lot of time out on the farm with my Grandpa and Grandma Maca. I liked driving tractors when I was really young. When I was seven, I drove the grain cart. My Grandma Angie would drive the grain truck to school and pick me up. She would dump a load of grain in town and then I would come out to the farm with her. Mom and dad would come get me later when it was time to go to bed,” he said.
“In high school, I would do my homework in the tractor, waiting for the combine,” he went on. “Grandpa taught me everything I know about farming. He was a people person and very community involved. But he also wanted me to go on to college and make sure that farming is what I really wanted to do.”
Hopkins took his grandfather’s advice and headed to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln where he pursued a degree in Ag Business, “I came back a lot of weekends to help and every summer. During harvest and planting, I scheduled classes to have the Fridays off or I would drive back and forth to class to make sure everything got done and I could still help on the farm.”
Throughout his college journey, Hopkins continued to prove to himself and his grandfather that he was serious about returning to the farm, “In college, I started doing the accounting and book work for the farm. By then, grandpa knew he was not going to get rid of me. I saw his renewed interest in continuing the farm be revived when he saw how serious I was.”
In 2003, Hopkins and his grandfather formed the farm partnership, “I had purchased a planter and owned a little bit of equipment by then and we decided to combine all the equipment together. At that time, I had 20 percent interest and he had 80 percent. I bought his percentage out from him entirely five years after college. Things had changed enough by then that grandpa was not doing what he had in the past. He had Parkinson’s pretty severely and it was tough to watch because he had to go to a nursing home, something I know he did not want to do.”
In 2005, Hopkins married his wife Sara and today they have three children, two boys and a girl, “I farm with Scott Pieper and my wife helps us keep going. If she went back to work, we would need to hire someone. She is a big help to us on the farm in addition to running the kids around to their activities.”
Hopkins grows corn, soybeans, wheat on dryland corners and raises seed soybeans and seed corn, “We also do some custom seed corn planting and own a sprayer that we put a detasseling bar on. We also do custom spraying.”
He also has been experimenting with cover crops on about half of his farm for several years and has tried to incorporate other conservation practices, “Grandpa changed to no-till when I was in college. He talked about wanting to do it and we got a planter and eventually got rid of the extra work tilling. The first year we went about one-third no-till, then at least half and then we said it works and stopped hooking up the field cultivator. At first, the weeds held grandpa back because he was pretty particular – but, he adjusted. We also did not see the yield drag off the bat, the first three years even. In our early trials, we never experienced yield drag.”
“I have also had luck dormant seeding in December a mix that comes up in the spring. I target doing this on those fields that are wetter and where we don’t plant the beans early so we can let the rye cover crop grow to about May 15 to a pretty good size of up to a foot-and-a-half tall when we are ready to plant into them,” he added.
Hopkins decided to take part in the Nebraska Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Health Initiative to quantify the benefits of cover crops, “I’ve heard that some people are asking, ‘Why is Brent Hopkins out there with a drill? What the heck is he doing?’ But I get more people who ask me questions and are really interested in what I am doing. Even some of the traditional tillage guys who were dead-set against no-till and cover crops are doing some of it now too. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.”