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.
Kris and Del met in southern California (even longer story) 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. Kris works at Reiman Gardens in Ames, and is a writer and fitness enthusiast. Del and Kris have three grown kids: Kelli, Lizzy, and Will.
While at Michigan State, Del worked on a dairy farm and feed store outside Lansing. At Iowa State, he worked on a farrow-to-finish swine farm west of Huxley, and also as a field technician 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. He 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, he 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 passion for educating producers and working with them on reasonable and effective solutions for environmental challenges. The OFAER program also gave Del a thorough understanding of manure management plans and other regulatory aspects of livestock operations.
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 (NPB) 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.
From 2012 to 2016, Del was employed by Iowa Select Farms as their Environmental Services Manager, responsible for all aspects of regulatory compliance for their swine 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 Select 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. Ever growing and learning, and keen to new service opportunities, Del passed the NCIS CAPP exam in 2020, earning his license as an independent crop insurance adjuster.
Livestock, including hogs, cattle, laying hens, broiler chickens, an assortment of 4-H and FFA show animals, and row crops have also been a part of 5J Farms and Services, LLC. As time allows, Del also continues to help out with the family farm and commercial swine operation, Johnston and James Farms, in Ringgold County, Iowa.