Del Johnston’s family comes from Ringgold and Taylor Counties in southern Iowa, farming ground there since the 1850’s. Kristine Erb is a Mennonite from Waterloo County, Ontario. Her family has been farming in southwestern Ontario for generations.
Del and Kris met in southern California and got married in Lansing, MI while Del was attending Michigan State University. They moved to Ames so Del could finish his education at Iowa State University's College of Agriculture. They’ve got 3 kids: Kelli, a Dordt College graduate and mechanical engineering PhD student at ISU; Elizabeth, a public relations major and RA at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA; Will, a high schooler at Gilbert, IA.
While at MSU, Del worked on a dairy farm and feed store outside Lansing. At ISU, Del worked on a farrow-to-finish swine farm west of Huxley, IA, and also as a field research assistant at the National Soil Tilth Lab, which was part of the USDA's Agricultural Research Services.
After graduating from ISU in 1997, Del began working as a field researcher for NOBL Labs, a swine vaccine company based in Sioux Center, IA. NOBL was purchased by Boehringer Ingelheim in 1998. Del worked 14 years for BI, eventually accepting the role of Manager of the Swine Health Management Center, which consisted of Field Research Services and a Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.
While at BI, Del was a certified contract assessor in the On-Farm Assessment and Environmental Review (OFAER) program. This program involved working with a co-assessor to evaluate swine, poultry, cattle feedlot, and dairy operations for key areas of odor and environmental impact. It was in this program that Del discovered his love of educating producers and working with them on reasonable and effective solutions for environmental challenges. He was exposed to manure management plans and other regulatory aspects of livestock operations for the first time through involvement in the OFAER program.
Del was also a Certified Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP) contract educator during his time at BI. SWAP was a program developed and supported by the National Pork Board to ensure animal well-being and humane treatment in swine production systems. The SWAP program eventually was folded into the NPB’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA+) program.
In 2012 Del went to work for Iowa Select Farms as their Environmental Services Manager, responsible for all aspects of regulatory compliance for Iowa Select Farms production sites. This included manure management plans, siting and permitting for new sites, DNR site inspections, and management of manure application and all records. The most important aspect of the position was ensuring communication and coordination between site managers, farmers, commercial applicators, Iowa DNR personnel, county personnel, private agronomists, and Iowa Selet Farms veterinary staff.
Though 5J Farms and Services, LLC had existed for many years prior, 100% of Del’s time since 2016 has been committed to providing outstanding and unsurpassed service and value to farmers across Iowa.
Livestock, including hogs, cattle, laying hens, broiler chickens, and an assortment of 4-H and FFA show animals, as well as row crops, have also been a part of 5J Farms and Services, LLC.