Farming in Karst Country: Soil Health, Caves & Underground Streams

  • Niagara Cave, 29842 Co. Hwy. 30, Harmony, MN 55939
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  • RSVP to Shona Snater, LSP, 507-523-3366, ssnater@landstewardshipproject.org

A special “Farming in Karst Country” field day will highlight the intersection of soil-building farming practices, water movement, and karst geology on Thursday, July 18, from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Niagara Cave near Harmony (29842 Co. Hwy. 30). During this Land Stewardship Project (LSP) event, farmers and geologists will share how practices like no-till, cover crops, and managed rotational grazing can improve the health of the soil and underground streams. The cost to attend is $15 for adults, $10 for teens, and $8 for children, and includes a cave tour* as well as a grilled, Pettit’s beef burger dinner. Space is limited to 65 participants and registration begins at 3:00 p.m.

To reserve your spot, contact LSP’s Shona Snater at 507-523-3366 ext. 111 or e-mail ssnater@landstewardshipproject.org.

Local farmers Martin Larsen and Olaf Haugen will share their insights on how diverse crop and livestock production practices can improve the health of the soil and underground streams. Larsen is a fifth-generation farmer using no-till to raise conventional corn, soybeans, and cover crops near Byron, Minn. He also works for the Olmsted County Soil and Water Conservation District, and he is the president of the Minnesota Caving Club. Haugen rotationally grazes dairy cows on sloping hills with karst features near Canton, Minn. To improve the integrity of the land, soil, and water, Haugen builds soil with his farming practices and grazing cows.

The Bishop family, which operates Niagara Cave, has stewarded the cave system since 1995, hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors during that time. They will share their knowledge and observations of underground water movement, water quality, and the changes they have seen in the cave over the past 25 years, especially as extreme weather events increase in number.

“Soil, water, farming, and our karst geology are intricately connected and produce the freshwater streams, plant diversity, and unique landscape of the Driftless Region,” said Larsen. “Improving the health of our soils will help maintain the integrity of our agricultural production, groundwater, and unique region.”

*Note that this will be a physically active field day with a topside walking tour and a cave tour that includes 550 stair steps and a mile walk in a humid environment. The cave tour is not recommended for people with heart or respiratory conditions.