In my experience, few learning experiences are more motivating to me than the ones that help us see the connections around us, empowering us to make more of a difference than we thought possible.
I see this a lot in my work with non-operating farmland owners via their enthusiasm to learn about soil health, farming practices that build soil, and ways to support their renting farmers in the long-haul. I always tell landowners to put their energy towards learning about soil health because it’s fun and fascinating and connects to everything they want to talk about with their renter.
Understanding how to build soil is the basis for understanding the impacts of decisions and practices on the land. It’s also a study of biological systems that affect many of the environmental concerns that we care about: water quality, pollinator habitat, rural community health and viability, native prairies — to learn about soil health is to understand all of those systems better.
In that spirit, on March 5 and 6 in southeastern Minnesota, the Land Stewardship Project’s Soil Health Team is hosting an amazing speaker, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, a renowned entomologist (the study of insects) who works on promoting regenerative agriculture. I want to tell every person who’s ever been excited about learning how soil health systems work to attend one of these events — Lundgren’s presentations provide the thrill that results from making powerful connections.
Regenerative agriculture is an approach to food and farming systems that focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, water quality, resilience to climate change, and soil health. Insects are a perfect indicator of the health of all our farm systems, and incredible unsung heroes in helping us meet our long-term goals!
A challenging and provocative presenter, Lundgren isn’t just an entomologist, he’s also an agroecologist and beekeeper. He received his PhD in entomology from the University of Illinois in 2004 and was a top scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service for 11 years. He is direct and outspoken, and was driven out of the USDA for his studies on the negative effects of pesticides and criticism of their widespread use.
Together with his family and laboratory team, he began Blue Dasher Farm in 2016 in South Dakota. The farm raises livestock, crops, and bees. Lundgren’s research and education programs focus on assessing the ecological risk of pest management strategies and developing long-term solutions for regenerative food systems.
Lundgren talks about seeing and monitoring our farm (and environmental) systems by seeing and understanding some of the insect cycles on the land. He talks about not just pest management, but how weed management can be accomplished with reduced inputs, and how farming in ways that build soil and insect habitat can provide many other ecological services — eventually all contributing to a healthier farm ecosystem as well as a more resilient and financially viable farm business.
His website is full of research papers published on all kinds of crops, systems, and insects: corn pollen and predator insect populations, nitrogen application and bean leaf beetle populations, the effects of winter cover crops on corn root worm…to name a few out of what seems like hundreds (I lost count).
I think anyone interested in knowing more about how to repair some of our damaged habitat and soil while preparing for a more challenging climate and economic environment moving forward will find Jonathan Lundgren fascinating. He brings an exciting message about the positive role farming can play in building resilient land and resilient communities. Check out his website and plan on attending one of his "From Entomology to Economics: Building Soil Health" events to learn more about what he does!
LSP organizer Robin Moore works with non-operating landowners who want to see their stewardship values reflected in farm leases. Moore can be contacted at 320-269-2105 or via e-mail.