Iowa regenerative farmer Kelly Garrett named Top Producer Award finalist

DENISON, Iowa (IAWA) – Sixth-generation Iowa farmer and regenerative ag advocate Kelly Garrett is one of just three finalists for the prestigious Farm Journal 2023 Top Producer of the Year award.

Qualifying for this Top Producer magazine honor is a big deal for any farmer – the publication’s subscribers must meet operational requirements (2,000+ corn or soybean acres, for example). For Garrett, success at scale has gone hand-in-hand with his commitment to regenerative farming. The Garrett Land & Cattle owner/operator, XtremeAg co-founder, and 2022 Field to Market Farmer of the Year winner said his fire for regenerative practices – which seek to rebuild and strengthen soil biology – was sparked at an early age.

Iowa regenerative farmer Kelly Garrett kneels in a crop field, looking at a handful of soil.
Kelly Garrett got his fire for regenerative farming as a boy growing up in a farming family alongside western Iowa’s Loess Hills. Photo credit: ©XtremeAg 2024

“It started with no-till … my dad and granddad started with that. I was around 11 or 12 years old.” Garrett said. “We’re on the eastern side of the Loess Hills. Keeping that topsoil on the hillside was the number one priority.”

The results of the Garrett family’s early experimentation? Savings on equipment, fuel, and time.

Like his forefathers, Garrett leads by example. Along with no-till, Garrett’s operation includes cover crops, grazing cattle in cover crops and corn stubble, plant stress mitigation tactics, and nutrient management practices, among others.

Emerging markets are on Garrett’s radar, too. In partnership with Iowa-based Feed Energy Company, he has made use of byproducts from his soybean crop (such as soapstock extracts) to create liquid feed for his livestock. The unconsumed portion of the soy byproduct-based liquid feed is then used as part of Garrett’s variable-rate fertilizer application.

“It’s the very definition of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,’” Garrett said.

Garrett also leads with encouragement through the XtremeAg digital platform – a community for member farmers around the country to ask questions and share insights from their on-the-ground regenerative ag experiences.

He said learning-focused communities like XtremeAg are critical to seeing more farmers and landowners adopt regenerative practices. Also key is a willingness to try out practices and find what works for each individual – just like any other aspect of a successful operation.

The 2023 Farm Journal Top Producer of the Year award winner will be announced on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the 2024 Top Producer Summit in Kansas City. Learn more at

Published on Feb. 5, 2024