Preserving agricultural land in Hanover County is vitally important to the Newcomb family. They use biosolids as a critical tool to conserving Liberty Springs Farm as a natural space.
Farming “is just something we’ve always done,” said Robbie Newcomb. “We need to keep the tradition going. Farming touches and affects everything,” he added. As a farmer, it’s more than planting crops and then harvesting. It’s much more. Farming benefits wildlife, natural areas, and some most people do not think of, like your neighbors. For Newcomb, a third-generation farmer at Liberty Springs Farm which is located in Hanover, farming is a passion, and he and is family intend to continue working Liberty Springs for years to come.
As prices of shipping, fuel and fertilizer continue to increase across the country, one way the Newcombs are able to continue successfully operating their 3,300 acres of farmland has been through recycling biosolids as a soil amendment. Newcomb said he recalls his father using biosolids to support production as early as he can remember. Today, he, his brother and the next generation, Robbie Newcomb’s son, JR, continue to use biosolids. They find that the use of biosolids increases corn production, as well as the production of wheat and soybeans. Biosolids provide the benefits of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and other nutrients. It’s these nutrients together with complimentary weather that directly resulted in an increase in the farm’s production this year. In fact, Robbie Newcomb mentioned that this year has been perhaps the most satisfying crop years for the farm – ever! “Being a part of the land and harvesting a good crop is rewarding,” Newcomb said.
Liberty Farms has what Newcomb referred to as sandy soil, which is why the use of biosolids can be especially helpful. “The extra organic matter that biosolids provides improves fertility of the soil,” Newcomb said. “We have been very intentional with the application of bioosolids because some of our land is in a floodplain, so we are careful to protect the environment of the farm while making sure we gain the benefits of biosolids,” he said. He said the biosolids can be especially helpful the farm’s productivity during years when there is significant dry weather.
Changes and advancements in technology have also had a positive effect on Newcomb’s farm, as well as many farms across the country. Technology advancements in machinery and precision agriculture “allow us to work in a more timely and efficient way. We are able to do more with less, and it is especially helpful on us physically,” says Newcomb. This is important as Robbie Newcomb and his brother Clay look forward to passing the farm to the next generation, JR, and his family.