The La Salle County Soil and Water Conservation District announced Bill and Sandy Nagel as its 2023 Conservation Farm Family of the Year.
Bill’s grandfathers, William Nagel – who immigrated from Germany – and Elmer Foote – whose family immigrated from England – put roots down 3 miles from one another in the early 1900s in Vermilion Township.
Bill’s parents, Harold and Luella (Foote) Nagel, raised Bill and his four sisters, Cynthia, Paula, Pamela and Karen, on the farm in the Tonica area. They grew corn and soybeans, along with raising hogs, chickens and cattle.
Bill and Sandy married in 1975 and began their farming adventure. They farm in Deer Park, Farm Ridge, Richland and Vermilion townships. They raised two sons on the farm, Tom and Ted. Although both sons have moved off the farm, Bill and Sandy enjoy having their sons and their families visit the farm in the fall to enjoy harvest.
When Bill began farming with his father, they plowed the ground in the fall to prepare for the spring planting season. After weighing options and trying different methods for reducing soil erosion throughout the years, they made the decision to transition to a no-till system by drilling soybeans and planting no-till corn in 1996.
They never looked back; in fact, they sold all their tillage equipment a few years after, the conservation district said in a news release.
The Nagels have included grid soil sampling into their operation and apply nutrients as needed based off soil tests by variable rate technology. Nitrogen application is put on as pre-plant in the spring and side-dressed when the plant is actively growing and will use it for optimum growth.
Bill applied for the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service for cost-share on implementing conservation practices such as cover crops and grassed waterways.
The Nagels have implemented many other conservation practices on their farms through the Conservation Reserve Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, such as additional grassed waterways, filter strips, field borders, pollinator habitat, cool season grass plantings and warm season grass plantings.
All the conservation practices implemented offer protection from soil erosion, improve water quality, increase soil health and enhance wildlife habitat.
Nagel Farms was awarded the GRAINCO FS Enduring Farm Plus Award in 2020, 2021 and 2022. This award is for recognizing farmers who “adopt sustainable best management practices that optimize nutrient utilization, leading to long-term soil and water quality while enhancing their returns on investments.”
Bill and Sandy had the opportunity to purchase ground that the Nagel and Foote families had owned and farmed decades before, to bring it back into their family.
Bill said they are a true family farm. In all, the ground that they farm is owned by Bill and Sandy themselves, his sisters and cousins.
When they began farming in 1975, they were members of the local La Salle County Farm Bureau Young Farmers. As they matured, they have continued their friendships with the other Farm Bureau Young Farmers that they had developed decades earlier.
They enjoy their land by fishing, birding and watching the abundance of wildlife that lives there.
The La Salle County Conservation Farm Family Award was first awarded in 1969 to a local farm family who practiced good conservation ethics with respect to reducing soil erosion, improving water quality and encouraging wildlife habitat.
The La Salle Soil and Water Conservation District has awarded this honor to more than 50 families since it began. Nominations for future farm families can be given by calling the office or by reaching out to one of the SWCD board of directors or staff members.