Pine View farm, owned by Jason and Jade Zastera, is this year’s Pine County Farm Family of the Year. The family includes Jason, Jade and two-and-one-half-year-old Zoe.
The Pine View farm, which is located in Pokegama Township west of Pine City, is a five-generation farm and was homesteaded in 1902 by Jason’s great-great-grandparents Frank and Anna Zastera. It was a small dairy for most of that time. Jason’s father Alan farmed 150 acres and milked cows.
Today the family owns 126 acres with 50 acres tillable. Jason also rents land on 20 other farms and grows 300 acres of corn, 350 of soybeans, 150 of hay and 50 of wheat for a total of 850 acres of crops. He grows hay for the horse
and beef hay markets. They also have 25 sows and sell feeder pigs privately.
Jason has been farming for eight years full-time after working for many years as a heavy equipment operator on road and large earth construction projects primarily in the Dakotas. He said that he started farming full-time because
he missed his family, wanted to settle down, stay home and be his own boss.
Jason indicated that his goal is to try to make farming on a small scale successful.
“New equipment is a luxury and does not necessarily pay in this area,” he said. “My equipment is 20 years old; I can fix it and it’s paid for. I am farming
for myself and not the bank. I am fortunate that I can do it.”
In an effort to be more successful he has been experimenting with no-till farming and cover crops. He has used no-till seeding equipment for his corn, soybeans and wheat for six years.
He had his best soybeans when he no-till planted them into corn stalks. He has found that no-till works well on sandy soil. He has found that it can also work on clay, but soybeans may take a few extra days to germinate.
Other benefits of no-till farming are that he has been able to eliminate two trips over his fields in the spring and one in the fall.
Not only does that reduce soil compaction and improve soil health, it also has reduced his fuel costs and labor time by 25% or more. He said that he is trying to cut costs without cutting corners, to get the best bang for his buck
and to remain profitable with less fuel costs and machinery maintenance.
He has been impressed with the results.
“I can now drive on fields due to increased soil aggregate size,” he said. “I do not have to fall plow and only have to till fields in order to smooth or level the ground before planting hay ground.”
With help from a Soil and Water Conservation District staff he has experimented with cover crops in an effort to build soil structure, organic matter, to reduce wind and water erosion in the fall and spring when bare soil is exposed to the elements. He has used a SWCD drill to plant cover crops of
rye, tillable radish and field peas cover-crops into wheat stubble the first week of September. He is finding that the cover crops break up soil compaction, scavenge for leftover nutrients and are an opportunity to have a second crop in the same year. The rye survives the winter to provide soil cover in the spring.
Cover crops also help the soil to hold more water like a sponge and they provide more earthworm and root passages. They also increase soil aggregate size, organic matter and they reduce the amount of needed commercial
On the first week in August he plans to broadcast seed-tillable radishes into soybeans. He concluded that in this challenging year that his cover crops have
been successful. If a helicopter applicator were available, he would like to try flying cover crop seeds into standing corn.
“I don’t claim to be a pro at this,” said Jason. “However, you don’t know if it will work unless you get out of your comfort zone and try something different.”
Jason is on the Pine City Fire Department. He said that he does that because he lost an aunt and cousins in a house fire. Jason and Jade also try to support local fundraisers and benefits for those in need. Jason also serves on the
Pokegama Township board. They also adopted the road running by the farm for roadside cleanup.
For fun, Jason has participated in tractor pulls, demolition derbies and antique tractor clubs. When Jade isn’t busy chasing after their toddler, she works part-time at the Pine City Animal Hospital and is involved in church activities. Zoe loves spending time around the farm helping with chores and getting tractor, combine and skid steer rides with Jason.
The Farm Family Recognition Program has existed for over two decades and has been sponsored and coordinated by the University of Minnesota Extension, the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences
and the College of Veterinary Medicine. The Farm Family of the Year is selected by the Pine County Extension Committee. Nominations for next year’s recipient family can be submitted to the Pine County Extension office at the Courthouse in Pine City.