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A Disappearing World Beneath Our Feet

As Midwestern farm fields take a long winter’s nap, evidence is piling up that even when the temperature’s above freezing, all that soil is basically in a bit of a stupor—so devoid of microbial life that it can’t even produce a decent crop without getting a hit of chemical inputs. The latest proof of this…  Read More

Putting Farm Tools in their Proper Place

One recent August day, I stood in a field in North Dakota watching soil being spaded up and listening to farmers talk about the optimal cover crop seeding mixes, how long to mob graze a paddock and which no-till equipment does the best job of cutting through last year’s plant residue. It was 90 degrees…  Read More

MN State College Was Wrong to Suspend Sustainable Food Production Program

As a farmer, sociologist and instructor in the Sustainable Food Production (SFP) diploma program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls, I was stunned as I read in Agri-News on Feb. 5 about why the program was abruptly suspended: “ …’people will move on and start their own farms,’ ” said Mary…  Read More

Grazing, Cover Crops, Climate Change & Resilience

The best farming system in the world means little if it isn’t resilient enough to bounce back from all the nastiness nature can toss its way. That’s become painfully clear in recent years as extreme weather events increase in frequency. Two upcoming Land Stewardship Project field days will focus on how diverse farming systems can…  Read More

U.S. Senate Passes Farm Bill, Yet Again

The U.S. Senate passed its version of a Farm Bill yesterday by a vote of 66-27. Both Minnesota Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Amy Klobuchar( D-MN) voted for passage of the bill. The upshot is that for the first time ever the Senate bill limits the degree of crop insurance subsidies wealthy farm investors and…  Read More

Good News on the Beginning Farmer Front

What with ridiculously high land prices and Washington’s inability to focus on agriculture long enough to pass a Farm Bill, it’s easy to get down about the prospects for beginning farmers these days. That’s why a national meeting held in Rochester, Minn., earlier this month was so important—not only because it proved that there are…  Read More

Let’s Pull Back the Curtain on Frac Industry

I am a 6th-generation Winona County resident; I live near Lewiston on the family farm where I was raised. We are here today, in the spirit of openness and full transparency, to learn more about an industry that is poised to make a huge and rapid impact on this beautiful region. We are a region…  Read More

Restoring the Resource

I coordinate a project in western Minnesota that is based on the idea that producing positive environmental impacts in a watershed can happen without having to remake the entire region’s landscape. Scientific studies and on-the-farm experience suggest that just a 10 percent increase in diverse crop rotations, grasses and other perennial plant systems can be enough to meaningfully improve the safety of the water, reduce flood potential, restore wildlife habitat and stimulate a thriving local and regional foods economy. This is especially true if we can target fields that are particularly sensitive to problems like erosion.

Rolling Our Land to Death

I sat in a farmhouse one afternoon last month as a hot wind lifted rich topsoil from surrounding fields. On the drive in, I’d noticed a surprising amount of rill erosion on newly tilled cropland—surprising because recent rains had not been all that intense and the fields were not unusually steep. Out of the blue…  Read More

Crop Insurance: A Safety Net Becomes a Threat

When it comes to the crop insurance sweepstakes, southwest Minnesota farmer Darwyn Bach is a winner. But he concedes that his good fortune presents a quandary, since the way the program is implemented these days creates significant losers: the soil, beginning farmers and Main Street businesses that suffer when the number of families in a…  Read More