Name: Oscar “Hank” Will III
Place of Residence: Near Topeka, Kan.
Hank is the Editorial Director at Ogden Publications and the Editor-in-Chief of both Heirloom Gardener and Mother Earth News magazines. He has decades of experience in both academics and publishing as well as a PhD in plant biology. He has successfully owned several farming and ranching operations and is a popular writer, speaker, advocate, and leader. Hank is a board member in agricultural and conservation nonprofits with experience on many sides of the conservation equation - as a biologist, farmer, researcher, and media professional.
Gardening, Farming and Direct Marketing Experience:
Will started his career in agriculture while working toward advanced scientific degrees in Chicago. Inspired by an article he saw in Mother Earth News, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hank grew and sold several hundred pounds of alfalfa sprouts weekly to individuals, stores and food-buying co-ops from his south-side apartment. Hank was also a partner in a small food-purchasing and trucking company that served neighborhood co-ops, several coffee shops and restaurants in the Hyde Park area.
Several years after leaving Chicago, Will put his rural Harrisburg, S.D., farm to work with four acres of native perennials, a nursery containing thousands of trees and shrubs, cut flower gardens, berries, rhubarb and meadow hay. Will marketed the bulk of his production through the Downtown Sioux Falls Farmers Market. During his final years in South Dakota, he co-chaired that entire enterprise.
Will also grew and direct marketed several thousand free-range broilers annually from that South Dakota location. His substantial laying flock supplied the Banquet and other local food charities with hundreds of dozens of donated eggs year round and another of his poultry projects supplied hundreds of pounds of donated free-range turkey to the Banquet and Sioux Falls Food Pantry during the holiday season.
Row crops have never been part of Will’s farming model but he has experience with managing hay ground, marketing hay and managing his own purebred Angus herd (in Ohio) consisting of about 150 head in an average year. He was also involved with native prairie restoration projects in Ohio and native prairie management in South Dakota.
Will currently pastures Mulefoot hogs and Highland cattle, keeps a flock of chickens and turkeys, and grows a large food garden on his Osage County, Kans., farm.
Management Intensive Grazing Background:
Will is an experienced grazier with a passion for low stress, intensive management of animals, pastures and hay meadows. He is a firm believer in improving soils and the pasture matrix by carefully timing the frequency and duration of animal grazing. Will’s Ohio cattle farm was recognized for exemplary herd and forage management, and clean water. The farm was on the Heart of Ohio Tour in the late 1990s.
Will was born in Bismarck, N.D., where his family operated a seed company and nursery founded by his great-grandfather and namesake in the early 1880s.
A.B. The University of Chicago 1978: biology major
S.M. The University of Chicago 1980: plant physiology
Ph.D. The University of Chicago 1983: plant biochemistry and molecular biology
Hank writes Heirloom Gardener’s Herbarium department, which has included How Plants Use Nitrogen and What’s in a Name? Understanding Botanical Nomenclature.