New Documentary Highlights Feikema Farms and Their Sustainable Journey


In 2014, Feikema Farms encountered a crisis as heavy rain led to major soil erosion, resulting in crop loss and financial setbacks. To avoid a repeat, they took a bold step to enhance soil fertility and reduce erosion.

Why it matters: Founded on traditional farming methods, Feikema Farms in Luverne, Minnesota, carries a legacy spanning three generations. To ensure the farm’s long-term prosperity, owners Shawn and Mike Feikema, alongside Shawn’s wife Becky, adopted new approaches to improving soil health by implementing strip-till and no-till farming, along with cover cropping. While this departed from the teachings of their families, it saved their land.

The big picture: Feikema Farms specializes in land stewardship practices that build fertility and reduce erosion. The Feikemas are cattle producers and grow corn, soybeans, and small grains while incorporating cover crops like spices, oats, rye, cherries, and kale to further enhance soil fertility.

  • Opting for strip-till and no-till farming following the 2014 floods was a risky decision, as the advantages typically emerge over a span of seven to eight years. However, the risk paid off.

  • "We’ve seen soil that was hard, compacted, wouldn’t drain even though it was tile, and it’s now turned into a sponge," explained Shawn. "We can now get these [large] rain events and the water doesn’t pond. The water infiltrates."

  • Even with dry conditions, the Feikemas have seen success with these innovative practices, and with advancements in seed genetics. "I love it when it’s dry," Shawn shared. "We have dry years like this year, and our crops do extremely well."

When asked about their 2023 achievements, Shawn and Becky attribute their success to resilience in face of extreme conditions as well as collaborative processes. They draw knowledge from generational insights, soil specialists, seed suppliers, and equipment dealers, to adopt and improve farming practices. "It’s this giant community of learning," explained Shawn.

See for yourself: The story of Feikema Farms is featured in a new documentary "From the Heartland" which highlights their journey to sustainable farming practices. The film, sponsored by John Deere and others, has received recognition from festivals like the Most Sustainable Solution award from the Ceres Food Film Festival in New York City. It is also being played in-flight on Delta Airlines.

"We agreed to do the documentary to show the general public who we are, what we do and how our families and communities are directly impacted by agriculture," Shawn shared. "We want our peers in farming to see the film because it shows both the struggle and pressure of today’s agriculture but also the rewards it brings to all rural America."