Jim Knopik is living proof that farms can thrive without harmful chemical inputs. He’s a rancher in Nance County, Nebraska, and he supports better protecting people and wildlife from pesticides.

Jim raises cattle on his 460 acres of land in the hills above the Loup River Valley. His family has been farming and ranching the same land for 65 years. His son Tom also farms 320 acres.

Jim’s story is one that is becoming more common among farmers.  He was a conventional farmer who saw a more lucrative and healthier option by switching back to more traditional practices, eliminating the need for conventional pesticides and fertilizers completely.

“When we were farming conventionally the soil loss from erosion was terrible and chemicals and fertilizer were a routine and expensive part of our business. Our switch to natural grass-fed beef production has greatly reduced input costs and improved soil health.”

Moreover, Jim’s switch has helped wildlife. The Least Tern and Piping Plover, both threatened with extinction, nest and breed along the Loup River. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests not using certain pesticides next to the Loup River and its tributaries.

Jim has gone beyond the government’s suggestion. He has found more sustainable ways to farm. In the few years since he changed his farming practices he has seen underground springs come back to life, a wider variety of plants and an increase in wildlife, especially in the variety of different birds, on his family farm.

Speaking from years of experience Jim expressed his concern with chemical control of insects and weeds. “Pesticides cannot be kept inside a boundary,” says Jim, “they get in the air, runoff into the water and cause harm.”

Instead of using insecticides, turkeys keep the grasshoppers down and chickens spread the cow manure, which limits flies. Jim has also constructed holding ponds, windbreaks and water lines to increase pasture rotations to support “mob-grazing.” A practice that helps reduce the number of nuisance flies on his cattle and encourages cows to eat weeds instead of grass.